It has been a busy season for contractors and plow drivers and now, they face a new challenge in their already high demand for salt - there is one less place for them to stock up on supply.
DRVN Enterprises, a salt distribution company in New London, is no longer able to operate their business out of State Pier in New London. Their massive salt pile was depleted this past Thursday.
“I kind of feel helpless,” said Steve Farrelly, owner of DRVN Enterprises.
Farrelly has been importing salt to State Pier since 2014. With tens of thousands of tons, he provides salt to about 1,000 customers on a yearly basis. However, Farrelly’s time at State Pier is up. He is being forced to relocate, as the Connecticut Port Authority prepares to use the site for wind turbine development.
Farrelly is still looking for a new location for his business, but he says now that his salt pile is depleted, there is a hole in the salt distribution network in the state.
“The distribution that we were providing to customers, as many as 300 loads a day, has been shut off,” said Farrelly. “So when you have a deficiency in distribution, you are going to have a problem.”
State Pier in New London and Gateway Terminal in New Haven were the only two deep water ports in the state that received shipments of salt, according to Farrelly. Now, it is just down to New Haven.
Farrelly argues that one location in the state won’t be enough.
“It would be the same if Gateway ran out of salt and if everybody came here,” said Farrelly. “I would not be able to serve all of the customers in the state of Connecticut from my depot. You can’t do that.”
Farrelly said that this won’t cause a salt shortage. Rather, he explains, it is a distribution problem. He compares the issue to having a stocked grocery store, but not enough ladders to get the product out to every single customer.
All State Landscape Services used to get salt in New London. They said they waited in line for hours this weekend to get salt from Gateway Terminal, costing their business.
“I was in that line Friday for about six hours and Saturday for ten hours,” said Peter Niro, owner of All State Landscape.
Niro said that his business will have enough material for the week, but he is concerned about what happens next. He is looking into out-of-state options. He provides salt for about 100 customers in Connecticut. Niro said that waiting in line at Gateway is too costly.
“We could have 20 trucks waiting in that line and that will cost me $20,000 just to replenish my piles,” said Niro.
In a statement, a public relations company representing Gateway Terminal said that all three salt suppliers operating out of their terminal have ample supply of salt for the winter. They said that there is another 55,000 tons of salt being unloaded at the terminal later this week.
The PR firm said that Gateway is processing approximately 650 trucks per day, 500 for DOT and municipalities that are carrying Morton and Champion salt and 150 for local contractors and landscape companies using the Gateway stockpile, according to the statement.
“The extreme winter weather has led to a significant increase in salt demand, which resulted in longer than usual wait times to access salt at Gateway Terminal over the weekend,” Justin May with Gaffney Bennett PR wrote in an email. “We are continuing to ask our customers to please plan accordingly as we work hard to alleviate any delays in service.”
A representative from the governor’s office said that all three salt suppliers have adequate supply to meet the state’s needs and that the state plow trucks will be properly equipped to handle this week’s winter weather events.
As Farrelly continues to look for a new location, he has been driving to Albany to help his customers get salt.
Farrelly does not just provide salt for private contractors, but for some towns as well.
Brian LaVoie is the operations manager for the Town of Mansfield. He has purchased salt for the town from DRVN Enterprises for the last five years.
LaVoie said that the town is now scrambling to get salt from other suppliers.
“It is kind of hard to find an alternative source for salt,” said LaVoie.
According to LaVoie, the town is good for this week.
“But if we get hit with five, six, seven storms, I don’t have enough material,” said LaVoie. “At this time, I just pray that the weather isn’t as bad as they are saying.”
DRVN has to officially leave the State Pier by Feb. 28.
"The CT Port Authority has stated publicly and consistently since March of 2020 that the State Pier would not be able to accommodate salt after 2020 because of a planned reinvestment in that facility for future growth. The Authority has since worked with DRVN to allow them time to sell their inventory stored on-site,” John Henshaw, executive director of the CT Port Authority wrote in an email.
“With the remainder of DRVN's salt at State Pier now sold, DRVN's agreement to access the facility expires on February 28th," the email continued.