Beloit, Wis., cuts winter maintenance costs with own brew

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With a highly regarded reputation for model snow and ice control already established, the city of Beloit, Wis., outdid itself by implementing an automatic brine making system.

“The system technology has taken us to a completely different level,” said Chris Walsh, director of operations for the southern Wisconsin city. “We’re at a premium spot in the country right now with our snow and ice control and part of that is because of the system.”

Walsh acknowledged the city routinely operates ahead of the curve when it comes to public works, but credits the new system for transforming their winter road maintenance into a cutting-edge process that includes custom production and smarter, more cost-effective application methods.

“Before the system our operators were used to just distributing a pre-made liquid,” Walsh recalled. “Now they are responsible for manufacturing our specially formulated liquids through the use of the system and that transition has provided our operators with a higher degree of expertise.”

The system purchased by the city is an AccuBrine automated brine maker produced by Cargill Deicing Technology . A fully automated brine maker with custom programming options, the system produces up to 5,000 gal of salt brine per hour while providing accurate salinity concentration.

“Our pre-wet system allows us to make the right blend of products and then pre-spray to combat a storm before it happens,” Walsh said. “We’ve cut off hours of overtime and truck usage if we spray pre-storm, and that’s a big cost savings. We don’t need to have our guys stationed out on interstates before a storm hits, because the product we’re using keeps our roads bare for that long after a pre-spray. That’s a huge savings if you look at conserving truck operation, additional product and employee overtime.”

Additional costs savings filter in through the production process as well, Walsh added. “We use well over 49,000 gal in a year, and before purchasing the system, we couldn’t make our own brine,” she said. “Brine is a lot less expensive to make when compared to buying blended products. We can make brine now for about 10 cents a gallon, and we were previously buying blended products for around $2.50 a gallon–that’s a huge savings.”

Right now, the city operates one brine maker and a growing tank farm with 40,000 gal of liquid storage capability. The farm houses eight 5,000-gal storage tanks, and Walsh said they just purchased two additional tanks, and hopes to purchase two more next year.

“Before we only had 10,000-gal storage capacity and we’ve just continued to grow,” she said.

“The supervisors have put bets that I’m going to buy another system,” Walsh said with a laugh. “And right now we’re certainly not in need of another system, but we’re always out on a limb looking at anything we can do that might save us some money, and that process pays off in the end. That’s what we did with the automated brine maker and it paid off big time.”

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