Brine machine saving Westfield money to keep roads clear this winter

WESTFIELD, Ind. – Drivers around Westfield may notice roads getting treated further in advance of snow and ice. That's because the city's street department is using a brine-making machine to help treat the roads.

The city purchased the equipment in time for the 2017-2018 winter. It had extra funds because of a previous mild winter.

The machine, storage container, and portable units that go on the back of trucks cost a combined $115,000.

"We can make 250 gallons per minute," said the city's street superintendent Travis Stetnish.

The addition saves the city money by reducing the amount of salt needed to treat the roads. When crews only use salt, it takes between 250 and 300 tons of salt for one layer across the community. When the city uses brine, the same coverage can be done with 25 to 30 tons of salt.

Each time brine is used rather than only salt, it's a roughly $10,000 savings.

Brine is a mixture of salt and water which helps lower the freezing point to prevent ice and snow from sticking to the roads.

Stetnish said brine works best if the temperature is at least six degrees. This week, due to the extremely low temperatures, including a couple days where the temperature was below zero, brine couldn't be used. That included late Thursday night and early Friday morning.

"We can put brine down two days in advance, up to two days in advance," Stetnish said. "Those are the little stripes you see on the roadways. That allows us to have crews out there. They can work eight-hour shifts and working before the snow gets here."

That allows the city to limit the overtime street foreman need and keep them from spending too much time behind the wheel during poor driving conditions.

Justin Jones is a street foreman with the city. He said he's seen the difference brine makes when keeping roads clear.

"It puts a layer of salt on the road and essentially keeps the snow from adhering to the asphalt," he said.

The street department said it’s still testing when and where to use brine. It's learned to keep it out of the community's 26 roundabouts because it makes them too slushy and slick for drivers.

The department would eventually like to add in additives to further help keep the streets clear.

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