Launch Slideshow

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Designing on a dime

Designing on a dime

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    Not many private fleets specify and repair anything and everything from a sewer rodder to a fogger, a brush cutter to a hydraulic crane, an asphalt recycler to a pontoon boat. This piece of specialized equipment belongs to the City of Hollister in California, one of the subjects of our cover story beginning on page 28. Photo: Nick Lovejoy Photography

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    Behind the truck: A boom made of PVC pipe and positioned behind the tailgate allows trucks to be used for anti-icing brine applications and/or salt spreading. Although prewetting in the auger is now thought to be more effective, the boom can also be used to prewet salt at the spinner. Photo: Harvey Williams

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    Inside the auger: When salt is wet before it's applied to pavement, it starts melting ice upon contact. Applying brine solution to salt within the truck's auger with a prewet device like this keeps granules from blowing away in the wind or bouncing onto roadsides. Photo: Mike Scaramella

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    Suburban-Chicago employee Matt Bartlett spent $2,300 to build this 300-gallon anti-icer. He designed the unit to be lifted into a standard pickup truck and removed when the vehicle's needed for something else. Photos: Harvey Williams

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    New Jersey Superintendent Steven Alexander spent $700 to convert this former fire tanker to an anti-icing vehicle with a driver-regulated spray boom. Photos: Steven Alexander

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    The driving force behind the brine system: a gas-powered centrifugal pump pressurizes the system and circulates the brine to the boom at the back of the truck.

A winterized pick-up truck

Agency: Village of Vernon Hills, Ill., Public Works Department
Innovation: Portable anti-icing unit
Savings: $5,500 on equipment (compared to commercial units) and more than $100,000/year in salt

The Vernon Hills, Ill., Streets Department had more than one reason to celebrate the New Year holiday. When light snow was forecast for New Year's Day, crews prepared by spraying 43.5 lane miles (nearly half the streets) with anti-icing brine: a mixture of salt, calcium chloride, and beet juice that adheres to pavement for up to 5 days. When the snow fell, there was no need to call drivers back in for snow removal.

A 300-gallon tank on a pickup truck has transformed the department's snow and ice operations. When Matt Bartlett, public works maintenance II, became interested in anti-icing, he called consulting firm Concept to Project Management to help start a program based on the scope of his department's needs. Over two months, he and consultant Harvey Williams worked to build a small anti-icing system consisting of a tank, an inexpensive pump, and a valve on a skid-type platform that can be lifted in and out of a pickup truck.

Instead of a gas-powered engine that's vulnerable to wet weather, the unit runs on a 12-volt pump that plugs into the truck's electrical system. By spending $2,300 on the tank, Bartlett avoided the cost of a more expensive commercial unit and a dedicated de-icing truck. “You don't need a Maserati to do what a Volkswagen can do,” says Williams.

The system is controlled by a switch in the cab that allows the driver to control material flow (i.e., turn it off at a stoplight). With one truck capable of spraying all roads in less than two days, the department's halved salt consumption – from 600 to 300 pounds per lane mile, or 1,600 tons a year – and significantly lowered overtime.

“If you live in an area with frequent snow during winter months, anti-icing is worth the investment,” Bartlett says. “But you have to try it to really see how it works.” He recommends starting with an 80/20 blend of salt brine and calcium chloride and then experimenting with other ingredients, such as beet juice.

Bartlett is considering building an 800-to-1,000-gallon portable tank next year. He may then add a hand-held sprayer to the 300-gallon tank so it can be used in pedestrian areas like the commuter train platform.

For a look inside the department's snow and ice removal operations, watch "Vernon Hills 2011 Snow Plow Update."

FIRST-PERSON PERSPECTIVE

FROM FIRE TO ICE

A township superintendent explains how he turned an old fire tanker into an anti-icing vehicle.

In the years since larger public works departments in my area started using anti-icing systems, I've seen salt brine applied to a road surface several days before a storm and still be effective once the snow started to fall.

After attending several workshops on salt brine I was convinced this was a cost-saving method taxpayers would appreciate. Since our budget wouldn't support buying an insert tank, I looked for ways to build one. Finally I came across a retired fire tanker truck (1975 International Cab Over) that I convinced the Lawns Volunteer Fire Company to donate to the township.

Persuading my governing body to fund the truck's conversion to an anti-icing vehicle was more challenging. The idea was generally welcomed, but not everyone agreed $700 for piping, valves, and gauges was worth the investment. After gaining majority approval, I was determined to produce an effective applicator.

Many days and sleepless nights resulted in a practical blueprint. I mounted a gas-powered, 90-gallon-per-minute (gpm) centrifugal pump we'd bought years earlier at the rear of the tank and ran 1½-inch PVC pipe from the pump into the truck's cab.

Inside the cab, I installed a pressure gauge, manual gpm gauge, and manually operated ball valve. The ball valve acts as a gpm-reduction valve that enables the driver to manually adjust application rate according to vehicle speed. Once the brine is regulated by the ball valve, the solution exits the cab and flows through a 1¼-inch PVC pipe to the rear boom applicator.

I also installed a pressure-regulating bypass valve on the pump's pressure side, which allows fluid to circulate back into the tank when the ball valve is closed. The rear boom applicator is made from 7-foot, 1¼-inch PVC pipe with evenly spaced ¼-inch holes drilled for even material distribution.

Last winter I saved approximately 30% of my anti-icing and de-icing budget. For a closer look at the vehicle, visit www.youtube.com/ElkTwpPublicWorks.

Steven Alexander (salexander@elktownshipnj.gov), CPWM, CRP, is public works superintendent for the Township of Elk in Gloucester County, N.J.

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