A few years ago, the City of Wauwatosa implemented a brine program for anti-icing and pre-wetting salt. As a pilot program, city officials were cautious when it came to investing in the upfront costs for an in-house brine maker without first seeing the results. Rather than batch their own brine, the Milwaukee suburb instead bought brine from neighboring communities.
“We had equipped a couple of our trucks with the brine tanks, and we bought the brine from Milwaukee County, which is down the road from us,” said Marion Sodnik, public works management analyst with the City of Wauwatosa. “It worked well for a time, but when they were no longer able to provide brine for us, we then went to Waukesha County to purchase our brine.”
That’s when the city started looking at in-house brine makers for their operations. Unfortunately, the only options they found were either fully automated systems that were out of budget range or equipment that required manual labor that often proved tedious and could result in inaccurate salinity concentrations.
That’s when Sodnik came across a brine maker that offered automated features, and fit the city’s production needs and budget restraints.
“It has all the Cadillac features of the larger brine makers, but in a much smaller package,” Sodnik said.
The system the city purchased is called the AccuBatch brine maker, which is produced by Cargill Deicing Technology. The system provides brine with accurate, automated salinity concentration and offers operators easy installation, operation and cleanout features. Sized to produce up to 800 gal of brine per batch – compared to 5,000 gal per hour, which some of the larger systems produce – the AccuBatch brine maker allowed Sodnik and his team to make and store brine at the volume that worked for their anti-icing and pre-wetting needs.
“We load the hopper with salt, turn on the machine and it gives us a load of brine,” Sodnik said. “Then we fill our 14 tailgate tanks, anti-icing tanks and 5,000-gal storage tank. This usually takes the better part of a day, but the technician can start the machine and walk away – he doesn’t need to babysit the machine all day.”
Sodnik credits the success of the new system with team effort and departmental support. Snowplow drivers, technicians and electricians all play a part in making sure the system runs flawlessly and produces effective brine so the city can create safer roads during the winter.
“Our drivers believe in the product, and implement plowing and salting techniques that maximize the brine,” he said. “Our technicians maintain and calibrate the truck equipment to ensure it works properly and that we’re ready for every event. Our skilled electricians and technicians customize the electrical and plumbing work necessary so the system performs flawlessly everyday. We are fortunate to have this skill and dedication on our staff.”
Not only is Sodnik and the city pleased with the production capabilities of the new system and staff support, they’re seeing results on the 200 lane miles they service and on their bottom line.
“Anti-icing and pre-wetting with brine has been very effective,” Sodnik said. “The results on the roads are excellent. Plus, producing brine costs us about 8 cents per gal and we were paying around 40 cents per gal when we bought it from the neighboring counties. In our analysis we calculated that we would pay for the briner in one season.”