After the first few snowstorms of the year, the City of Westfield already is seeing benefits to using brine to coat roads instead of rock salt.
After a light winter in 2016, the city it used its snow removal savings to invest in a brine operation system, which includes a production unit and an application unit.
“Brine is essentially dissolved salt, as opposed to rock salt, which you see the trucks dumping out,” Public Works Director Jeremy Lollar said. “What we do is take that salt, add water to it, dissolve the salt and it becomes, essentially, hydrated salt.”
Regular rock salt sits on roadways until precipitation, such as snow or ice, activates the salt.
“(Brine) is already dissolved,” Lollar said. “You put it down and it’s there and ready to go. It doesn’t have to have that chemical breakdown. We are taking out a step. The main benefit to us is it saves us a fairly significant amount of money because there’s no waste. (Brine) can sit for three or four days as pre-treatment.”
Rock salt application requires 150.5 tons of salt to pre-treat the city’s streets. Brine application requires only 17.2 tons because the salt is dissolved into the water, making it go further. It costs roughly $3,000 to treat all the roads with brine. The cost of rock salt treatment is approximately $14,000.
Brine treatment also saves the city in overtime costs, and it helps take stress off workers trying to pre-treat around the clock before a snowstorm.
“When we get into 12-hour rotations like that, it can be weeks at a time, seven days a week,” Lollar said. “Any opportunity we can to reduce the force and give people time off is a benefit to the organization and the people, most importantly.”
Brine, however, can’t be applied in all cases. The city still keeps rock salt on hand when certain weather conditions prevent brine from being effective. For example, brine doesn’t work if it rains in advance of ice and snow because rain washes away the application.
Another benefit to Brine, Lollar said, is is that it doesn’t eat away vehicle paint like rock salt does. Not all cities and towns utilize the brine because the production unit has an upfront cost. Because the City of Westfield saved money from its 2016 snow removal budget, it was able to purchase the production unit, which saved enough money within 10 uses to pay for itself.