WVDOT to use brine solution to fight snowy roads

Winter in this area provides beautiful sights, but snow and ice on the roads can make for very dangerous driving conditions. Fortunately, the West Virginia Department of Transportation has made dry runs, checked equipment, made schedules and truck assignments, and are preparing a special concoction used to pre-treat roads and make the best, most cost-efficient use of salt.

Mike Moran, District 8 Engineer for the DOT, said his district has been experimenting using salt brine, and plans to expand its use.

“We try to be proactive if they are calling for snow,” Moran said. “We are starting to do a little bit of pre-treating with the salt brine. It seems to work really well under the right conditions.

“Once treated, it takes the snow a lot longer to start lying on the road, and when it does lie on the road, it doesn’t seem to freeze to the road and it’s easier to plow.

“There is no one-case fixes all – it depends on the conditions, the temperature and the snow,” Moran said. “You may pre-treat and not get any snow after all.”

Moran said the department had lots of calls last winter wondering what was being put on the roads by the tractor trailer with the big tank on its back.

“We have a mixer to make the salt brine on our Corridor H lot above the Gilman Road,” Moran said. “We make our own. It is the same salt we put on the roads dry and we mix to a precise concentration – the salt is mixed with regular city water. There is nothing else added to it.

“The salt brine is no more corrosive than the dry salt we put on the roads,” Moran said. “The dry salt has to mix with water to get it to work. Sometimes this is by the snow melting on the road and mixing with the salt. (Brine) gets us a step ahead where it is already mixed with the water, causing a chemical reaction to begin heating up to melt the snow.”

Moran said his district does not use brine pumped up from gas wells during fracking.

“I have been told some districts use that but we do not,” Moran said. “There are some potential problems when using the brine from those wells – the concentration can vary, and it has to be a precise concentration to do the job.”

Moran said salt brine is used on Interstate 79 with good results.

“Based on the success on Interstate 79, management decided to invest in the mixers to make the salt brine,” Moran said. “It reduces the amount of salt we have to use. The dry salt tends to kick off the side of the road, but we get good results and the salt brine stays where it is put on the road.”