Atlantic Salt also receives regular shipments of salt from Mexico, Ireland, and Egypt, from flats and from mines and distilled from the sea. Depending on the country of origin, the salt’s color might be brown, yellow, white, or even green. Brian DeForest, the terminal manager, says that his clients get attached to a certain road salt and complain of adulteration if a different color arrives. Winter is the time for road salt, and the more it snows the higher the demand. This year’s supply—bound for the greater New York City area—sits right here in several white mountains.
The choreography here is straight out of a child’s sandbox. Up above, a huge crane drops a thirty-ton bucket—a scoop with jaws—into one of the ship’s seven holds. The iron lines quiver, the diesel-powered crane engine emits a belch of dark smoke, and the bucket emerges, full of salt. The crane swivels and its maw opens, releasing a cascade of salt onto the top of the pile.
After a few loads, the truck is brimming with white salt and ready to deliver the salt to a Department of Sanitation salt shed, where it will be loaded into an orange salt-spreader and, ultimately, onto to city streets. City sanitation companies pay seventy-four dollars a ton for this salt. It’s never mixed with sand, as the sand doesn’t dissolve in water and clogs city sewer pipes.
A few weeks later, in the middle of a snowstorm, I am waiting to cross a street when a sanitation truck galumphs past, spraying salt. The granules pelt my legs, and the woman next to me leaps back and yelps, “Ouch! That stuff hurts!” I lick my lips. I can almost taste it.