If you live in an arid place close to the ocean where fresh water is at a premium, you take a serious look at how to desalinate – take the salt out of the nearby sea water to make it drinkable.
And here in the Midwest, far from the oceans, we need to make a lot of salt water in a hurry from our abundant fresh water. Not for drinking or swimming, but when the snow flies, that salt water can make the highways safer sooner.
MoDOT’s Kansas City District is the first in the state to employ a mobile brine maker. Delivered just after last season’s snow, Kansas City District’s maintenance team has spent the spring and summer preparing for its advantages by adding tanks throughout nine counties for an additional brine capacity of 120,000 gallons. While the trailer-mounted brine maker is based at the Independence maintenance facility, it can move to anyplace in the district at a moment’s notice and produce 10,000 gallons of brine an hour. That’s 10 times as fast as it took to make brine the old way.
“It’s easier to make the brine, all automated controls,” said District Maintenance Engineer Jesse Skinner. “It blends and mixes much easier.” The old brine makers were much more difficult to operate, took several people to produce brine, clean out the unit and maintain.
“This is a self-cleaning unit, so our labor costs will decrease,” Skinner said. “This unit can use any form of salt. The old units required more expensive salt with fewer impurities. This self-augers the impurities, and doesn’t have to be scooped out with a shovel.”
The stainless steel tank is engineered for the long haul. MoDOT expects to keep it working for many years with minimal maintenance. Skinner said that the unit’s ability to blend other chemicals will maintain a consistency that ensures effectiveness at lower temperatures, another big advantage in a snow fight.
“Our first test run is to fill all the new brine tanks throughout the district, make sure we have all the right fittings and can hook up to water supplies with sufficient volume to make brine as quickly as the machine can produce it,” Skinner said. That quickness and efficiency will deliver when it’s crunch time.
“We now have capacity to fight back-to-back storms; before it would take us up to a couple of weeks to replenish our brine supply,” Skinner said.
“I’m not eager to see it in action this snow season, but confident that we will put it to good use.”
To see more photos of the mobile brine maker, visit MoDOT Kansas City on Flickr.