October 9, 2013

Cass highway dept. prepares for new de-icing

Highway superintendent: New agent is cheaper, more effective.

by Mitchell Kirk

---- — The Cass County Highway Department is planning to take on a new deicing practice this winter — one said to be cheaper and more effective and that has been finding success across the state.

The agent is created by letting water run down through a tank of salt. This brine is then stored in other tanks before going into tanks on trucks, which haul it out to the roads.

"I won't say we're excited for the first snow, but we're looking forward to using this new equipment," Cass County Highway Superintendent Jeff Smith said.

The agent not only removes ice from pavement, but can be used to prevent it from forming as well.

"It starts to work as soon as snow falls to prevent ice from bonding to the pavement," Smith said.

Smith said with traditional salt application, cars drive over the rocks, causing them to mix with the moisture on the road to create the brine that in turn melts the ice. He called this new practice an improvement, as the salt is already in brine form when it is applied, allowing it to work much faster.

Furthermore, Smith said when plows move in after a snowfall, the brine mix will be removed cleanly as opposed to the salt and sand that remains on top of ice when using the former method.

The highway department recently erected a three-sided shelter to house the storage tanks, Smith said. The entire project cost about $5,000, a price he hopes to make up through the savings the new practice is expected to bring.

"By the time it's all said and done, we've worked with some people and have been able to acquire a lot of this stuff for little or no cost," Smith said. "We had to buy some hardware here and there, but it's not going to be a huge expense for what we would hope to save on salt usage."

The Logansport Street Department started using the new deicing practice last spring. Logansport Department of Public Works Superintendent Dan Williams said pre-treating the roads with the mix didn't allow any moisture to freeze underneath about an inch of snow.

"It really does work," he said. "It's a lot better than salt and sand, and that's a big thing."

Because less salt is required to make the brine as opposed to dumping it on roads in solid form, Williams said the new practice led to $1,500 to $2,000 in savings.

It also meant less sand and salt was going into street drains, Williams said.

The Indiana Department of Transportation also uses the mix. Smith said he and other highway department employees met with INDOT employees and Williams to familiarize with the procedure last winter.

Smith said the department found success with the practice while experimenting with it last winter.

"We were impressed with how it worked for us during the few events we used it for last year," he said.

Smith added he plans to have the department start off small and then expand in the future, using one large truck and two pickup trucks to de-ice subdivisions in order to avoid sweeping up sand in the spring. All of the trucks are equipped with booms to let the mixture stream over the roads.

"I think it will work well but we didn't want to start out huge right out of the gate," Smith said.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK