Technically Speaking: Applying Brine at the Right Time - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Technically Speaking: Applying Brine at the Right Time

Photo: SnowEx

Adding brine to your snow removal services can help reduce the amount of granular rock salt you need to use in your operations. It can also be a proactive tool to use before snowstorms hit.

The level of service you are contractually required to provide, the nature of the winter storm and the functional nature of the brine all play a factor in the application rate and what the brine should be made of.

Below are some of the ways brine can be applied in situations as well as when it is unsafe or not useful to apply brine.

Pre- and Post-Treatment

Anti-icing is the practice of applying a layer of brine to the pavement before a winter storm to prevent snow and ice from adhering to the surface. This makes plowing after the storm easier.

This should be done one to three days prior to a snow event. Schedule the application when there is minimal pedestrian traffic. Test the pavement temperature to confirm the needed application rate and then let the brine dry.

Areas such as sidewalks or other high-traffic areas that need constant bare pavement are ideal for anti-icing treatment.

After clearing snow, brine can also be used to prevent refreezing and optimize pedestrian safety. It is suggested to shovel and treat every two hours or after every 1 to 1 ½ inch of snow has accumulated.

When Not to Apply Brine

While brine can significantly reduce the usage of rock salt, it is not a complete replacement for it.

“In most cases, it’s just another tool in the toolbox so that you have to pick and choose which tool to use under which circumstances,” says Rick Kier, LIC, managing partner of Forge Ahead Consulting and Software LLC. “If you use it incorrectly, brine can be a real problem.”

The brine solution needs to be at 23.3 percent salinity. If it is less than 23.3 percent, it will freeze at a higher temperature and if it is higher than 23.3 percent, the salt will solidify.

You need to be mindful of the weather conditions prior to the event. If rain is expected before the snow or ice moves in, it can wash away the brine. Sometimes if the snow moves in too quickly, there is not enough time the apply brine.

Sodium chloride brine is effective at anti-icing down to 15 degrees F pavement temperature. The rate per 1,000 square feet increases incrementally as the pavement temperature decreases. If the air temperature is right, but the pavement is too cold, brine will freeze, so crews should use hand-held infrared instruments pointed at the ground to gauge the ground temperature.

Adding up to 30 percent calcium or magnesium chloride can prevent freeze conditions that are below 15 degrees F but you should not use any kind of brine mixture when temperatures are below zero.

While you can post-treat with brine after clearing away snow, deicing with brine on bonded ice and hardback is not recommended as this calls for significantly higher application rates and high-pressure nozzles to penetrate the hardpack.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.