At least one supplier of diatomaceous earth is prepared to pass the rising cost of natural gas on to distributors, who will in turn pass it on to retailers.

EP Minerals, maker of Celatom diatomite filter media, announced that it will charge customers an energy surcharge if the monthly average price of natural gas exceeds $4.40 per dekatherm. In February, the Reno, Nev.-based company faced an average price of $7.13.

The energy surcharge, which went into effect in March, is calculated based on the plant where the products are produced. The company’s Celatom mining complex is located in eastern Oregon.

Manufacturers have been grappling with soaring energy costs in recent months as sub-freezing temperatures have slammed parts of the country. Last month, natural gas prices broke $6 per million BTU for the first time in five years.

“We hope the price of natural gas will drop now that we’re moving into spring,” said Matt Goecker, vice president of global sales at EP Minerals.

Goecker couldn’t estimate how much more distributors could expect to pay. “That depends on the daily price of natural gas,” he said.

The cost, however, will appear as a separate line item on invoices.

Mineral processing plants are especially vulnerable to fluctuating energy costs. Raw materials, such as DE, are processed with large blast furnaces, which require significant amounts of energy to dry the minerals.

Last year, San Jose, Calif.-based Imerys Filtration Media, makers of AquaPerl, a DE substitute made of perlite, hiked prices 2- to 8 percent on all products shipped within North America to defray rising costs in manufacturing, maintenance and environmental compliance.

Some retailers are beginning to see costs creeping up on them.

“Every now and then on our distribution invoice, we’ll get an energy surcharge and a transportation surcharge, and that’s relatively new,” Dan Kettler said. The sales manager at Spartan Pools in Saginaw, Mich., estimates the added charges typically amount to approximately $8.

“If we pay more for it, sad to say, the customers will pay more for it,” Kettler added.

DE is the leading filtration medium in the Northeast, where it’s used on an estimated 45 percent of residential pools, according to a recent Pool & Spa News survey.