New salt brine method keeping Warren County roads safer, water cleaner, this winter

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warren county road salt brine machine

Warren County employees operate one of two brine machines purchased by the county to use on roads this winter. Brine repels ice from forming on roads, rather than eating away at it after it has formed. (Photo: Warren County)

WARREN COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Salt is a staple for treacherous winter roads, but it’s not without its drawbacks. For this winter, Warren County has adopted an alternative, with results set to save thousands; and be safer to boot.

The county has spent the last two weeks putting two brine-making machines into use across county roads in need of winter protection. Brine is a mix of salt and water, which works a bit differently than just distributing rock salt on roads.

“Brining is simply anti-icing, as opposed to de-icing,” said Eric Siy, Executive Director of The FUND for Lake George.

Brine is applied to road surfaces before winter cold and heavy snowfall settle in. Diluted salt water is applied to roads that stop ice from bonding to pavement in the first place, allowing snow plows to then come by and remove that cold slush in a way Siy described as a close shave.

Warren County has two units; one stationary, one mobile. The stationary one is stationed in Warrensburg, a centralized location with easy access to both the highway and the more remote parts of the county.

The mobile unit can go anywhere in Warren County, and the county plans to loan it out to neighbors as well.

The mix of salt and water means as much as $10,000 in annual savings per year, Siy estimates. For smaller communities, like Dresden and the village of Lake George, that difference is huge. And it doesn’t stop there.

“Being able to assist others in making brine will not only help the environment by protecting
our waterways and wells for generations to come, but allow each of the participating
municipalities to reduce the amount of funding needed in their budgets by reducing the
amount of salt used while still maintaining public safety,” said Warren County DPW Superintendant Kevin Hajos in a press release. “What is better than saving money and protecting the environment?”

Hajos was not availible for further comment on Thursday.

The communities of Ticonderoga, Dresden, Putnam, Bolton and Queensbury, as well as Washington County at large all contributed to the purchase of the mobile brine-maker. The stationary machine was purchased by The FUND for Lake George.

At a state level, Gov. Cuomo’s office is expected to sign a bill that would reduce the amount of salt pollution statewide.

Salt water

At the FUND, the topic of road salt in water has been the subject of research and study for about five years, through the Lake George Salt Reduction Initiative.

Road salt that enters the lake can cause drinking and groundwater contamination, and make the water less habitable for wildlife.

“You can’t reduce what you don’t measure,” Siy said.

The FUND has been using sophisticated equipment to track salt rates at different points in the lake. That equipment is placed on roadside cameras, and even in the cabs of plow trucks. Those tools are used to train operators to demonstrate new techniques that work better and keep more salt out of the lake. Brining is just one of those methods.

The FUND also demonstrates those methods to businesses around Lake George. It’s not just those that interact with the water, like marinas and lakeside restaurants, but also anyplace with a lot of pavement or parking where road salt might normally be dispersed.

Siy said that those improved techniques have been easy to sell, because they save everyone money in the long run. Less salt to buy means less guaranteed cost every time winter rolls around.

“We’re not putting people on the moon here,” Siy said. “We’re just using salt smarter.”

Road salt is getting reduced by as much 50 percent in some places. Others are approaching that goal, and the FUND is working to get that reduction rate consistent throughout the whole basin.

This year, Lake George also experienced its first harmful algal bloom. Siy said there isn’t a known direct link between road salt and that bloom, but that the added stress on the lake couldn’t have helped.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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