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Despite recent warm weather, local salt business preparing for snow

New London — Until last year, the region's communities didn't have a local supplier for the salt used on roads and sidewalks.  

It was like having a firetruck in New Haven but the fire is in New London, said Steve Farrelly, owner of DRVN Enterprises of Wethersfield and, for the second year, distributor of road salt though his business at State Pier.

Last year, Farrelly, 56, began operating his salt distribution business through a contract with Logistec, the port operator for the pier. 

New London's deep-water port hadn't imported salt in about 15 years.  

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, whose district includes New London, toured the DRVN facility Friday.

DRVN serves about 15 municipalities in the state including New London, Groton, Waterford, East Lyme and Ledyard.

Farrelly knew going into this business that, if it didn't snow a lot, he'd be "holding a lot of costs," but he also saw the opportunity to fill a need in the region.

If there's little to no snow this year, Farrelly said, "I pay the interest on the note and pay the rent on property and conduct my other business. We move along."

Salt is not the only commodity Farrelly deals with in his business, which is a source in the material manufacturing, procurement and commodity distribution field.

This time last year Farrelly also was nervous, but last winter brought many inches of snow to the region.

Farrelly already has about 50,000 tons of salt and is expecting another large load early next week.

"I'm hoping I have enough room," Farrelly told Formica.

Trucks have delivered salt from DRVN to several local municipalities such as Ledyard, Waterford, Groton and Salem.

East Lyme is expected to receive a delivery of salt once the vessel coming in next week is unloaded.

Recently, Farrelly contributed four palettes or 224 forty-pound bags of salt used to melt ice.

The palettes will be delivered to the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center.

The organization and its various partner programs will use the salt as needed around the sidewalks this winter.

Farrelly said he has invested more than $500,000 in capital improvements to establish the 2.5-acre operations, manufacturing and storage facility on the pier.

That investment includes a 14,450-square-foot building where he stores and treats the salt. The building, which is 34 feet tall, can hold about 6,800 tons of salt.

Until recently, DRVN was a one-man business. Farrelly now employs three full-time employees.

The salt he buys usually comes from Egypt on large cargo ships that dock at State Pier. DRVN distributes it throughout the region by truck. 

Last winter, DRVN bought about 55,000 tons of salt. The demand was so high, Farrelly's supply was exhausted for three weeks.

Early in February he ran out of salt and a ship was scheduled to come in from Egypt, but was delayed due to "so much going on in Egypt that was out of my control."

The salt that Farrelly uses is treated with calcium chloride and lignin, an organic extract from trees. The lignin acts as the glue to bond the salt and calcium chloride together.

After treatment, the salt turns a dark brown color.

For this winter, about 49,000 tons arrived in October, with the next 48,000 tons expected to arrive in the shipment early next week.

Longshoremen working for Logistec unload the ship, usually a five-day process.

Farrelly contracts out the trucking of the salt and said he is exploring the option of distributing some by rail next year.

j.bergman@theday.com

Twitter: @JuliaSBergman

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