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” at