Applying brine to streets before a storm hits to keep ice from forming, or prewetting salt so it sticks to the road and melts ice more effectively, doesn't necessarily require new equipment.

Retired after 32 years with Illinois DOT, Harvey Williams provides training, systems, equipment, and supplies through his consulting company, Concept to Project Management. He draws on his experience as a field technician, district safety manager, and in highway maintenance operations to help cities and counties improve winter maintenance without blowing their budgets.

We spoke with two of his clients about inexpensive equipment modifications that significantly improved their operation's capabilities. You can talk to Williams yourself at 815-261-4806 and

Or catch him at the American Public Works Association's North American Snow Conference April 29 through May 2 in Milwaukee. As a member of the association's Winter Maintenance Subcommittee, he'll lead a discussion group for small agencies to share their experiences using winter liquids, reducing chloride loading, and maintaining service despite ever-decreasing budgets.

Doing double-duty

Agency: Village of Carol Stream, Ill., Public Works Department
Innovation: Pipe attachment for prewet and anti-icing
Savings: Up to $180,000 (cost to buy anti-icing units)

For more than a decade, Carol Stream, Ill., Street Superintendent Mike Scaramella has experimented with different styles of tanks to produce his own salt blends to target specific needs. Through trial and error, he built a percolating tank using the round (easy to clean), stainless steel (corrosion-resistant) container farmers use to store milk.

After perfecting his brine equipment, Scaramella had to figure out how to get the most mileage from his anti-icing and deicing blends and the 15 trucks that spread both liquid and rock salt. He realized that, by adding a relatively simple polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe extension to each truck's prewet unit, he could use the trucks for two purposes: applying anti-icing liquid to roads and spreading deicing solutions or salt.

Scaramella modified a commercially purchased prewet unit with lengths of pipe and added valves to control liquid application. The pipes connect the truck's brine tank to the salt auger and form a boom — or ‘wet bar' — that hangs beneath the truck's tailgate. “By turning a couple of mechanical valves, we can prewet salt in the auger or apply anti-icing liquid directly to the pavement,” he explains.

With one device, he's:

  • Wasting less. Wetting inside the auger is more effective than spraying the salt at the spinner behind the truck because the liquid is enclosed and can't be blown away by wind. The wet salt sticks to the pavement instead of bouncing away, and melts ice faster because it's activated by liquid.
  • Targeting material use. Truck tanks can be loaded with either prewet liquid (a simple salt brine) or an anti-icing blend (a more expensive, complex mixture of salt brine, calcium chloride, and beet juice) depending on what crews need. Each solution is used for its intended purpose.
  • Lowering equipment costs. Unlike custom parts, PVC pipe is inexpensive and easy to repair or replace. Scaramella has added the device to nearly all of his trucks, from 1-ton dump trucks to six-wheel salt spreaders, sparing taxpayers the expense of separate anti-icing tanks and sprayers or buying new trucks.
  • A winterized pick-up truck

    Agency: Village of Vernon Hills, Ill., Public Works Department
    Innovation: Portable anti-icing unit



    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

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

    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."

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