Should New Rochelle Have a Salt Dome? A Few Words With the Salt Guru

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Should New Rochelle Have a Salt Dome? A Few Words With the Salt Guru

January 24, 2014 - 22:36

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Having spent the last few days learning more than I ever thought I would want to know about municipal snow removal, it has become apparent that salt is far more important than I had realized. Listening to readers complain about snow-covered roads in New Rochelle this week, I know I am not alone in failing to fully appreciate the importance of road salt in the lives of New Rochelle residents.

To better understand salt, and in particular road salt, I went looking for a salt expert.

I was fortunate enough to find one.

Morton Satin is Vice-President of Science and Research at the Salt Institute. And yes, he does know that his first name is the same as the brand of salt in your pantry.

Satin, known as the "Salt Guru", explains how road salt works in the above video.

When I explained New Rochelle's situation -- no indoor facility to store salt, no tarp, no concrete pad and significant loss due to run-off and "clumping" caused by exposure to the elements -- he was horrified.

"That is absolutely not what is recommended," said Satin. "That is not a best practice...that's not even a least practice."

Satin explained that salt must be managed as a strategic resource.

"All northern climates that have elected to maintain the same level of activity in winter months compared to summer months have to treat salt as a strategic material in winter," said Satin.

"We have a tendency to take it for granted because it works so well," he added, "but we have elected to live in this climate and cannot live well without salt."

I asked him how the Salt Institute recommends road salt be stored.

"We always recommend salt be stored on an impermeable platform -- a concrete pad or asphalt -- so that any possible run off can be contained and will not infiltrate the ground," he said.

"We also suggest covered storage, a structure or a building, as it completely keeps salt free of the elements such as wind or rain. A tarp is not a long term approach and for a municipality in particular is not a good idea. The amounts used by a town or small city can be managed under a building."

I asked the Salt Guru why it is so important to store salt in covered storage.

"The key reason is that you do not want to lose salt to the environment," said Satin. "You don't get any losses from high wind and rainfall."

Satin noted there are many commercial manufacturers with lots of different kinds of designs including concrete barns, wood barns, heavy fabric, and more.

"It is important to keep as much of a stockpile as possible," said Satin. "Winter is the worst possible time to move salt around as transportation routes do not function well in the winter"

There are also demand-related pricing issues.

Satin agreed that a municipality would want to have a large stockpile because trying to get salt when you need it -- right before a snow storm -- is precisely when salt is the most difficult to obtain and when it costs the most.

Satin said that the situation in New Rochelle made him "sad".

"It's more than just the UPS truck or personal vehicle. Ambulances rely on those roads. This is a serious business and salt is your lifeline to mobility in the winter."

Satin was sure that if the City ran the numbers they would better appreciate that salt needs to be managed properly.

"Salt has got to be treated like a strategic resource," Satin emphasized. "When mobility is hampered in this way lots of businesses, especially small businesses, lose millions of dollar. It cannot be done sloppily."

Have more questions about salt?