Hennepin County, Minn., adds enhanced deicer to winter maintenance toolbox

July 23, 2014

Winters can be brutal in Minnesota—especially in heavily populated areas like the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Keeping roads clear of ice and snow is an essential task of public works officials, and Hennepin County has developed an arsenal of winter maintenance tools to help create safer conditions for winter motorists.

Developing their winter maintenance toolbox involved a process of trying out different winter maintenance products and eventually finding the right combination of salt and an enhanced deicing product.

“We tried a number of different products over the years, including experimenting with pre-treating rock salt using in-house methods,” said Joseph Hannan, south district supervisor, road and bridge operations for the Hennepin County Transportation Department. “This proved to be costly, labor intensive and ineffective. Since then, Cargill has been awarded Hennepin County’s portion of the state contract.”

In addition to the cost and labor involved, pre-treating salt in-house proved to be ineffective when it came to storage and leaching challenges.

“We tried pre-mixing and pre-treating our own salt, but that was just not an effective process,” he said. “It was time consuming and you couldn’t be sure if you were treating the salt evenly or not. We experienced a great deal of leaching when it was in storage as well.”

Hennepin County took advantage of an item bid on the state contract called ClearLane enhanced deicer. Produced by Cargill Deicing Technology, the product is a green-tinted granular deicer that has been designated as a Design for the Environment product by the U.S. EPA. The product is made up of traditional sodium chloride that contains natural deicing additives and is pre-treated with liquid magnesium chloride.

“Because the product is pre-mixed, we get the effectiveness of a pre-treated product but without the hassle of doing it ourselves,” Hannan said. “And it's pre-mixed evenly, so the end product is that much more effective.”

Hannan and his winter maintenance team discovered additional benefits of the product as well, including its free-flowing characteristics and greater effectiveness in colder temperatures.

“The product doesn’t clump in storage or in the application vehicles,” Hannan said. “With salt, sometimes you get a big rock ball that’s the size of a bowling ball and that causes problems for the drivers. They have to stop and chip it away and that’s neither safe nor effective.”

Maintaining 1,934 lane-miles and managing a fleet of 70 vehicles, safety and keeping the roads clear from dangerous conditions are top concerns for Hennepin County, and Hannan said the enhanced deicer helps them combat hazardous conditions in an effective manner.

“We’ve found the enhanced deicer works better in colder temperatures, so we use salt when the temperatures are above 16°F and use the pre-treated deicer when temperatures drop,” Hannan said. “The deicer product is really an effective tool we have in our toolbox.”