Beverly Hills, Mich. — The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) is spreading less salt on Oakland County roads this year. But, the reduced salt usage does not mean the roads are less safe.

In fact, because the salt is now mixed with liquid brine (salt water) as it comes through the salt spreader on the back of the trucks, the reduced amount of salt is actually more effective than the larger amount of dry salt used in the past.

“This is both a cost savings and an improvement in efficiency,” stated RCOC Board Member Greg Jamian. We can use less salt than we used in past years, and yet that salt, when mixed with the liquid brine, is actually better at melting snow and ice than the dry salt was.”

RCOC Vice Chairman Eric Wilson noted that the cost of salt increased 10 percent in the last year alone and 140 percent over the last 10 years. “Typically we’ll spend about $4 million per winter on salt alone, and there will be no road improvements to show for it,” Wilson said. He added that cost would be much higher had the Road Commission not been able to reduce the amount of salt being used through the addition of the brine.

The liquid brine also works to melt ice and snow at lower temperatures than rock salt. Rock salt begins to lose effectiveness at about 20 degrees. At 0 degrees, it does nothing.

The active ingredient in the brine is calcium chloride, which works at lower temperatures than the sodium chloride which is the active ingredient in rock salt.

RCOC pumps the brine out of its own wells, meaning it gets the material at very little cost. The brine is also used for “anti-icing” which is the process of spraying the material directly onto some roads before the snow begins to fall. Creating a brine coating on the roads delays the formation of ice once the snow starts to fall. 

The brine is also used in the summer to control dust on gravel roads.

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