Brine experiment has good results

Township testing salt water mixture to help with snow conditions

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"It was unbelievable, the difference with the brine."
Councilwoman Ada Erik, commenting on the condition of Canistear Road during a snow event after being treated with brine


After years of trying to convince Township of West Milford officials to experiment with using brine for better road snow/ice control, resident Pat Restaino finally got support from people currently in charge. Not only are local officials impressed after seeing how brine quickly clears hazardous roads — but so is the county.

“The results have been exceptional and beyond anything that has happened in the past,” said Administrator Antoinette Battaglia at the Jan. 4 township council meeting. “Council members Ada Erik and Tim Wagner, on a subcommittee established by the council, met with Department of Public Works director Ed Steines a number of times to review current snow operations and to start the journey for the brine program. They have been very supportive and we have a lot to learn.”

The administrator said Passaic County officials have agreed to meet at the end of the winter season and discuss experiences and the future use of brine. Battaglia reported that the county has an agreement with Hawthorne Borough for use of brine. She explained that if West Milford were to engage in such an agreement, the township would need to discuss increasing the number of trucks used for brine and how to effectuate those changes.

It’s working in HawthorneHawthorne Public Works Director Robert Scully was quoted in a published report as saying the way to clean roads down to the blacktop is to spray them with a 23 percent salt concentration three days before a storm. He said spraying will keep up to two inches of snow from sticking to the asphalt.

Hawthorne makes its own salt-water solution and now sells it to the county and other towns. The program began over a year ago. The borough has contracts to sell brine for 15 cents a gallon to Ridgewood and the county. The report said selling the brine is seen as a way to get back the $73,000 expenditure that Hawthorne spent for the brine-making unit. An estimated 30 percent of road de-icing cost by using less salt is seen, the report from Hawthorne officials said.

Brine on West Milford streetsWest Milford started a very limited test with the brine last winter. This year, they are using it on more roads, some well traveled and some smaller residential roadways. The results have been impressive.

Department of Public Works Director Ed Steines said he is “very pleased with the results so far.”

Steines explained that the township is using brine consisting of salt, water and beet juice. The beet juice help lower the freezing point of the mixture even more, bringing it down to about -18. Salt alone works to melt snow and ice only to about 15 degrees. The brine mixture creates a warm, sticky texture, causing it to adhere to the surface. Snow and ice melt as it hits the treated surface. The roadways are easier to plow and the result is a cleaner road.

The township had bought a slide-in unit to deliver the brine to the road when it first started a year or two ago. This year, they only had to buy different nozzles to spread the brine more evenly. If the project is successful, they will be adding to that.

‘Unbelievable’ resultCouncilwoman Ada Erik said she certainly saw a difference in the roads being treated in the township with brine and those that aren’t. Most notably, Canistear Road.

Erik said she rode around town during a December storm. Canistear Road, she said, is always a tough road to navigate in snow because it gets very little sun. When the snow falls and cars run over it, the snow is flattened onto the pavement and turns into “an ice rink.” That wasn’t the case this time. She said Canistear Road, which is being treated with brine, was clean with no snow sticking to it.

“It was unbelievable, the difference with the brine,” she said.

And she noted that the township could save on overtime since brine can be sprayed up to three days before a storm actually hits, allowing workers to spray it during regular work hours.

Another benefit — and Steines’ ultimate goal — is to do away with grit. Grit is spread on roadways along with salt during storms. But it has to go somewhere and often it ends up clogging storm drains. The rest of it is cleaned up after the winter, costing a good chunk of change. Last year, the township was sweeping up grit well into the summer.

With brine-treated roads there is less snow on the roads, and less grit and salt would be used. This all saves money on those products and for the inevitable clean up in spring of the grit.

“This year is the big test,” Erik said.

Brine is also being used to help salt stick to the road. Steines explained that his department treated 400 tons of salt with some brine. Instead of the salt bouncing off the road, which it often does, the brine-treated salt stuck to the road.

A promising startWagner said he is optimistic that by next year the township can be using more brine and less salt and grit with not only better control of ice and snow but needing less time for employees to spend clearing roads.

Speaking with people on the county level and state Department of Transportation, Wagner said he found that everyone who used brine said it is tremendous. He said he is looking forward to having West Milford take the lead because not many towns are currently using brine for winter ice control on roads.

The roads being treated with brine are Warwick Turnpike, Lakeshore Drive, Morsetown Road, Ridge Road, Gould Road, LaRue Road, Canistear Road, Oxbow Lane and Timber.

Restaino is smiling these days now that the use of brine is finally getting attention. He predicted that as the use of brine is increased, ice and snow related motor vehicle accidents will decrease.

What are your thoughts? Is your road being treated with brine? Tell us if it’s making a difference. Go to

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