The City of Bentonville, Ark., has experienced tremendous growth over the past couple of decades. And as the population has grown, so have residents’ expectations for winter road maintenance. One of the city’s latest efforts to meet these expectations is the use of brine.
The street department began testing the waters by building its own equipment to produce brine and then applied it in a couple of different ways. First, the department started spreading salt, followed by a home-made sprayer to apply brine on top of it, thereby activating the salt’s melting capabilities more effectively. This de-icing tactic was mostly used at signalized intersections, allowing the salt to work below the existing ice pack and break it up from underneath.
Secondly, the department used home-made sprayers to pretreat bridges, overpasses, collector streets, and main roads leading into subdivisions with brine before a winter event. The goal was to establish a layer of salt that prevents ice from bonding with the pavement, making it easier to scrape away with a plow or simply keeping the surface clear of ice in the first place.
“Areas we pretreated were melting off much quicker,” said Daniel Clardy, transportation foreman for the City of Bentonville. “In fact, it was melting ten times faster than areas we hadn’t pretreated. And we were using a lot less salt than if we spread it after ice had already formed.”
Due to the success, the purchased a SnowEx Brine Pro brine maker for automated brine production. “Using a touch-screen, you just follow the simple directions, make a couple of minor adjustments and consistently make brine at 23.3% salinity,” Clardy said. The simplicity allowed Clardy and Crew Leader James Bise to quickly get up to speed on making the brine and then train three others to do the same so there is always someone on hand to replenish stockpiles. “The best way I can put it is if you can use a cell phone, you can use this brine maker,” Clardy said. Currently, the municipality is making/storing 10,000 gallons of straight salt brine and 5,000 gallons of a magnesium chloride and salt brine mix.
For application, the city purchased a SnowEx Liqui Maxx sprayer. “With our homemade units, we could only treat one lane at a time,” said Clardy. “With the new sprayer, we could turn on the flood nozzles on either side of the boom and cover three lanes at once. I literally did three to four times more pre-treating than our other sprayers could do over the same period of time.”
Another advantage is the sprayer’s GPS technology. Using speed sensors, the sprayer can be set to automatically adjust the flow rate based on travel speed. The equipment has proven so effective that the city plans to flex in two new sprayers. Furthermore, the neighboring jurisdictions of City of Centerton and Benton County have followed suit with brine usage and equipment selections based on Bentonville’s experiences.
“Making and applying brine has made us more efficient and effective while cutting down on overtime,” Clardy said. “But, most importantly, it’s made everything a lot safer for the traveling public. And that’s the ultimate goal for all of our jurisdictions.”
About the Author: Jon Thorp is a marketing specialist for SnowEx, a manufacturer of snow and ice management equipment.