Credit: Frank Aiello Studios
Kenny Kraus and his salt-brine truck (salt-brine tanks can be seen in the background). Salt brine delays the formation of frost and ice on pavement, making snow removal easier. It also allows public works crews to use less rock salt during a typical winter, minimizing cost as well as the amount of salt entering storm drains, brooks, streams, and eventually reservoirs.
Department of Public Works Foreman
Borough of Tenafly, N.J.
When Ken Kraus, a foreman with New Jersey’s Borough of Tenafly, stopped to investigate a truck watering a road in 2009, he discovered a real-life anti-icing demonstration. Salt brine, a simple mixture of sodium chloride and water, keeps snow from adhering to and ice from forming on pavement during the critical first hours of a winter storm.
Kraus and Department of Public Works Director Bob Beutel priced the equipment necessary to institute a salt-brine program: nearly $80,000 for a production-and-storage facility and truck.
“We thought, ‘How can we do this cheaper?’” says Kraus. He and fellow foremen Randy Blauvelt, Mark Schmidt, and Greg Zaremba answered the challenge by inventing a system.
They called in favors from everyone they knew, including the owner of a tree care company who donated used 250-gallon plastic storage tanks. They used PVC pipe left over from various projects, valves found at the borough’s recycling center, a decommissioned fire hose, and a pool pump salvaged from a local home being demolished.
For the delivery system, they installed two tanks in a flatbed truck public works had been using to haul debris during warmer months. To save even more money, they decided to rely on gravity instead of a sprayer to disperse the solution.
Final cost: less than $500.
Once word got out on how well the system works and how little it costs, phone calls came pouring in from neighboring jurisdictions.
“So we started putting them together for other towns,” says Kraus. He estimates that between 30 and 40 municipalities in the area now use the salt-brine stations. According to Judy Muller, administrative assistant for the department, Kraus often drives out to other towns on his downtime to help build their systems.
“Whatever I can do to help them save money, I do,” says Kraus.
Although this isn’t the first homegrown brine-production system we’ve heard of, it earned a spot on our list of reader innovations because Kraus and his co-workers have done a lot more for Tenafly than melt snow. Their cooperative spirit opened the lines of communication with colleagues in surrounding communities, enabling all of them to operate more efficiently.
— Victoria K. Sicaras