Scott County, Minn., Public Works fights snow with less material and less labor

Like many cold-weather road departments, Scott County Public Works in Minnesota knew about the benefits of pre-wetted salt. What’s more, they tried to create their own pre-wetted mixture. And, like so many other counties have discovered, the bottom line never made sense. The results were good, but the cost, effort and storage issues that came with making pre-wetted material couldn’t justify the return.

“We knew pre-wetted salt worked better, but what we didn’t know is what an economic drain it can be compared to an enhanced deicing product we started using,” said Greg Felt, project manager for Scott County Public Works.

The deicer product used by Scott County is a salt product called ClearLane enhanced deicer, and is produced by Cargill Deicing Technology . The product is different than raw rock salt, however, because it contains a pre-wetting agent and coloring agent. These chemical additives help keep roads clear by providing a faster reaction time, longer residual effects and also protect distribution equipment from damp salt corrosion.

“I first came across the product in Washington County, Minnesota. Seeing the results, I put it to use in Scott County, and found it to be superior to our own mix,” said Felt. “We could only mix small amounts at a time due to limited storage space. That alone caused problems. Plus, it took a lot of time and materials to create pre-wetted salt on our own. Now that we use the deicer, we don’t have any of those problems, and it costs less.”

Looking at the financial numbers, Felt indicated the enhanced deicer product is a big winner for the county. Using the deicer, they center-drop about 35% to 40% less material on the roadways compared to salt, and because the product is more effective, they don’t have to put as much down, which saves material and labor costs.

“Another benefit to the product is that it melts ice even when it’s extremely cold out. The enhanced deicer works at temperatures well below what salt can handle,” said Felt.

In past seasons, Scott County has used about 8,000 tons of the deicer, on average. During one particularly harsh winter, the county applied over 9,500 tons of the product to their 737 paved lane-miles.

“That year, if we could have got a hold of 11,000 or 12,000 tons, we would have used that, too,” said Felt.