Walkways layered with snow will always be a dreary sight. However, the Horticulture and Grounds Department has implemented a new anti-icing system that reduces the amount of salt used while still prioritizing safety and the environment. Prior to spreading salt on walkways, a brine solution is poured on walkways and stairs. Just like butter prevents an egg from sticking to a pan, the brine solution prevents the adhesion of snow or ice to the surface. This abates the time and energy required to clear sidewalks regardless of how compacted the snow is.
To create the solution, a brine maker (pictured below) is used to mix the salt solution. A total of 39 bags of salt is needed to generate 1,000 gallons of pre-treatment. The brine is then drained into two storage tanks that can hold a total of 3,000 gallons. When needed, the department pumps the solution from the reservoir into applicators on facility vehicles. The vehicles drive at 4 miles an hour to ensure the solution is evenly distributed. An attached hose is used to spray brine on stairways and specific areas. Using brine can reduce salt use up to 80% compared to traditional salting methods.
There have been environmental concerns regarding road salt as it tends to percolate into waterways. This can cause complications for drinking water quality and the animals and plants that rely on nature’s resources. However, the new brine pre-treatment is composed of 23% salt and is monitored often to ensure minimal salt usage without compromising safety.
“That’s what our really big push was: just being safe and cautious of what we do with our environment,” states John McIntyre, the manager of University Horticulture & Grounds.
The Deicing Depot salt that is used in the brine solution is a sustainable alternative to other salts that typically have contaminants and debris. Derived from evaporated water, the pure salt prevents clogging in the already time-efficient pre-treatment process. Two vehicles equipped with sidewalk sprinklers and hoses are being used this winter to pioneer the sustainable anti-icing innovation. The River Campus, South Campus, Medical Center, and Mount Hope can be pre-treated as early as four days prior to snowfall, allowing more time for other projects like new electric equipment purchases and fluorescent lighting installments.
The work of the Horticulture and Grounds Department has led to many successes for the University. A Green Star Honor Award was bestowed on the University this year by the Professional Grounds Management Society, who acknowledges the Cherry Garden and Arboretum. Tree Campus USA has recognized the University for the tenth straight year as a Tree Campus institution. This Arbor Day Foundation honors colleges and universities that demonstrate dedication to effective forest management. The University will continue to reduce its environmental impact with the support of the Horticulture and Grounds Department and University community.
Written by Emily Su, Class of 2022.