Article from Lakeland Times: 8-28-2018

Oneida County to increase use of liquid salt brine on roads

Over the past decade or more, liquid salt brine-in place of traditional rock salt-has become more popular with transportation officials throughout the state for keeping roads from freezing in the winter.

Its use will soon increase in Oneida County.

Highway department head Bruce Stefonek announced the county has been selected as one of 20 to participate in a Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) pilot program.

The State will supply a $200,000 high-capacity brine-making machine for each country in the program. In return, designated routes on state highways will become experimental "brine only" zones.

The word "only" in that phrase is up for amendment, explained DOT maintenance supervisor Anna Wisner.

Brine is only effective to about 8 degrees, although as part of a two-county pilot program last year, Shawano County reported it to work at temperatures

as low as 5.

 

Beyond that point, counties are free to default to the old-standby use of rock salt, though its usefulness is limited when it becomes any colder.

"I called it 'brine-mostly'," said Wisner, "If there's condition like, say, 10 below, the brine's not going to work.

 

"We don't want to create a safety issue out there, either, " she said. "There's flexibility (for country officials)  to use judgement on whether or not to use liquid only or if you're going to go to rock salt...That's part of the pilot"

She also explained the use of various techniques-like application by high-pressure spray nozzles or the use of chemical additives-can help push the lower threshold at which the brine is effective.

She said the high-pressure nozzles "can cut through the hard pack or whatever's on the road versus when you apply rock salt, it melts from the top down."

Wisner said some of the chemical additive may include "B-derivatives, Mag(nesium) chloride, and calcium chloride.

Detailed data will be gathered during the pilot programs to help steer the DOT's brine policies in the future.

"The UW Tops Lab is going to help us and document what's effective at what temperatures," Wisner said, "and kind of dial in for us what our most efficient mixes are for different temperature ranges."

Another perk for those counties receiving the new brine-makers is the benefit of being able to use the liquid on its county roads at no charge from the state.

In addition, counties would be able to sell brine to municipalities within their borders ( and theoretically to neighboring counties without machines) as a revenue stream without returning a cut to the state.

The public works committee is poised to commit to the program, pending approval by corporation counsel of a memo of understanding (MOU) between the state and the county.

 

"The end goal is to save money," Wisner said. "Salt is our biggest cost for winter maintenance and we want to reduce the amount of salt we put on the road."

 

Among the other effects of brine being tracked, the long-term environmental impact of salted road is still inconclusive.

Wisner does believe the use of brine is a step in the right directions in terms of reducing the still-unknown impact.

 

"The benefit is you use less tonnage of salt by 40 to 50 percent, "she said. "And you're diluting the salt into the water.

Affects on vehicles:

The new medium-and perhaps its adhesive additives-is affecting vehciles in new ways, according to John Pearsall, manager of Island Collision in Minocqua.

It's just way, way more corrosive," he said. "Don't get me wrong: it must work for what they want it for, but as far as being hard on vehicles, it really is. That's what we've seen. I don't know if it's a liquid and it just sprays around more, or if it's because of what it's made of."

It's everywhere," he said. "The whole undercarriages and the bodies...(the corrosion) is quicker than it ever used to be, years-wise."

Pending approval of the MOU and county's commitment to the pilot program, the DOT hopes to have the Oneida brine-maker in place for the next snowfall.