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The City's new brine facility can store up to 10,000 gallons of solution.
It’s a learning process.
That’s how City of Minot Street Superintendent Kevin Braaten describes using the City’s new brine facility, which will help crews pre-treat streets to enhance the snow removal process.
“With this brine, we will be pre-wetting our roadways. The solution stays in the pavement so when the next snow event happens, it starts the melting process faster,” Braaten explained. “When it’s applied correctly, the solution creates a barrier so you don’t get ice sticking to the pavement, which makes it a lot easier for blades to get down to the pavement.”
Other large communities in North Dakota and the North Dakota Department of Transportation have been using the brine mixture to pre-treat roadways with good success, Braaten said. This will be Minot’s first year using the liquid brine on a full-time basis.
The process involves spraying the salt/water solution onto roads in advance of a snow event. When it snows, the liquid starts the melting process faster than granules of salt and sand, making it easier to remove snow from the roadway.
“Using liquid, it keeps the product on the roadway longer,” Braaten said. “You don’t get the bounce and scatter effect that happens when granules are applied and some bounce or get blown off the roadway. The liquid stays put.”
The process can be a little tricky, Braaten said, because its effectiveness depends on applying the brine at the proper temperature.
“Once pavement temperatures get below 6 degrees below zero, we won’t use this liquid because it could actually create more ice because of the water in the solution,” he said. “But when temps are above zero, that’s when brine seems to work the best. It’s a work in progress as we learn how to best apply this solution.”
Salt and water are mixed until it’s at a perfect 23.3 percent solution.
“The salt and water keeps recirculating until we get the 23.3 percent solution,” Braaten said. “The computers will not allow us to put bad product into the tanks. The system keeps the mixture at the proper solution for us.”
The City’s system can make up to 116 gallons per minute, and uses 2.2 pounds of salt per gallon of water to get achieve the 23.3 percent solution. The solution is kept in two 5,000 gallon storage tanks in the brine facility, which is located near the Public Works Building.
“When we pre-wet, you’ll see some white lines down the roadway. The water will evaporate, but when the snow hits the pavement, it will reactivate the salt that’s already on the roadway,” Braaten said. “The liquid starts the melting process faster than the granule method because the salt reacts better with the ice and starts the melting process quicker.”
The City Council approved funding this year to convert a cold storage building into the new brine-making facility. Braaten said he and his crew members will document how the process works this year and make any necessary changes moving forward.
“We’re taking baby steps before we try to get bigger. We’re getting good at making and loading the brine, and now we will work on learning the best methods to apply it so it’s most effective,” he said. “We’ll also learn where it’s most effective to apply this solution in our City, so we’re maximizing the product.”
If there’s enough time before a snow event, crews will use a priority list to apply the brine to the city’s major roadways, as well as hills and other locations.
“When we see a snow event coming, we’ll get these trucks out putting brine down to create that barrier,” Braaten said. “Then the snow will come off the streets easier when we plow.”