Why Salt Brine?

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Brine has been used in many European countries for many years as both a pre-wetting agent for dry materials and as an anti-icing agent for the proactive treatment of snow and ice.

For anti-icing, the key is to place the brine on the roadway surface prior to a precipitation event. This action helps prevent the snow and ice from bonding to the pavement. Oskaloosa, Iowa, was an early advocate of anti-icing as a way to keep snow and ice from bonding to the road surface. The city has also used it with great success on city sidewalks.

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Now, several years later, the use of salt brine for pre-wetting and anti-icing is no longer experimental or unusual. In the winter of 2002-2003, the Iowa Department of Transportation used over seven million gallons of brine. All of the Iowa DOT’s snow plow trucks are equipped with units that pre-wet dry materials at the spinner. Anti-icing equipment is available to anti-ice the entire commercial and industrial network (over 9,000 lane miles) when conditions make it an effective strategy. Many cities and counties, including major metro areas, are now active users of salt brine.

Traditional practices depended on rock salt or mixtures of rock salt and abrasives to remove snow and ice from the roadways. The materials were delivered from the bed of the truck to a spinner where it could be widely dispersed onto the pavement. The idea was to concentrate much of the chemical over the middle of the roadway so that when the chemicals began the melting process the melting liquid would move away from the crown of the roadway to the lower levels of the roadway and help break the snow and ice bond with the pavement.

A study conducted by the Michigan Department of Transportation measured the amount of chemicals left on the roadway after a typical spinner application of materials and found that nearly 40% of the materials left the roadway after application and landed on shoulders or in ditches due to bouncing. With a typical Iowa DOT application of 300 pounds per lane mile of a 50/50 mix of salt and abrasives, that would mean that once the truck passed only 210 pounds of the mix remained on the roadway.

Further studies conducted in Switzerland and Germany also measured the amount of dry chemicals that remained on the roadway after vehicle movement and found that after five vehicles had passed, only 30% of the dry materials remained on the roadway. After 100 vehicles, only 20% of the dry chemicals remained.

When the materials were pre-wet after five vehicles had passed, 93% of the materials remained on the road and after 100 vehicles, 80% remained on the roadway surface.

If a dry 50/50 mix is being used to remove snow and ice, it is obvious that a roadway with large volumes of traffic will quickly lose most of the materials onto the shoulder or into the ditch where it is of little help to melt snow and ice.

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Benefits of Salt Brine

  • Costs 50% less than rock salt

  • Minimizes overtime for plow drivers

  • Can be applied two days before it snows

  • Stops snow hardening on roadways

  • Requires a small initial investment

  • Doesn't bounce or blow off the road

  • Effective to -6° F (-21.1 - 6° C)

  • Increased efficiency results in less de-icer use, minimizing environmental impact