Options to improve salting roads heard

Efforts to potentially improve treating Chautauqua County roads during the winter were discussed this week by Brad Bentley, county Public Facilities director. One such effort is using brine, a mixture of salt and water applied to roads before snow arrives. Photo by Eric Tichy

Public Facilities Director Brad Bentley is always looking for ways to improve salting Chautauqua County’s 550 miles of roads.

Recently he attended some presentations put on by Lake George area municipalities about ways to better salt roads. He shared some of what was discussed at the legislature’s Public Facilities Committee meeting this week.

“We found out there were a lot of similarities that we were already doing,” he said.

Some of those include putting computers in all the county trucks, monitor the spread rates, calibrate the county’s equipment and provide driver training.

The things that Chautauqua County isn’t doing, Bentley said, will require a financial investment.

One proposal is to use brine on roads. Brine is a mixture of salt and water, explained Bentley, and is applied to roads before snow fall. “There’s benefits to pretreating the road with brine in that it can dry and stay on the road and the initial snow will not adhere and may melt a little bit faster,” he said.

Brine has been shown to keep salt on the road longer, too, instead of bouncing off.

The problem with brine is the state requires municipalities make their own, so Chautauqua County would need to not only the manpower and machinery to make bring and store it, but also need an additional 8-10 brine trucks.

Plus, Bentley noted, we get so much snow, that at certain times of the year there would be no point in pretreating the roads with brine.

Another option is to pre-wet the salt.

“When you put salt on the road dry it doesn’t do anything. Even when it snows it takes awhile to be activated. It requires friction and cars running over it in order to activate it. What the pre-wetting does is it basically sprays water on the salt as it gets applied to the road, allowing it to activate sooner,” Bentley explained.

This would mean refitting their trucks so the salt can be pre-wet.

“These are all ideas out there that people say saves money,” Bentley said. “I don’t know if the net is still favorable with all the things you have to do but I’m willing to give it a shot.”

Another benefit by using either brime or pre-wetting the salt is it allows less salt to be put into the environment.

Bentley said the presentations discourage the use of sand on roads. “Sand has been shown to cause as much environmental harm as salt does because it gets into the lake and pond bottoms and discourages vegetation growth,” he said.

It’s also known to cause dust and pollution and ruin road shoulders.

According to Bentley, the county uses 30,000 to 35,000 tons of road salt annually. This year they have $2.3 million in their budget for salt.


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