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Best Practices for Municipal Snow Removal and De-Icing

Best Practices for Municipal Snow Removal and De-Icing

Justin Rollin

In the 1970s, transportation agencies across the country made the connection between the use of large quantities of road salt and environmental impacts. Since that point, there has been a ton of research to document and improve the process of maintaining ice-free roads. It can be difficult to remain on top of the latest techniques and equipment, but our company has extensive experience in providing salt for municipal facilities.

How to Reduce the Effect of Road Salt

It’s impossible to avoid snow and ice removal in the winter, but there are different approaches to achieving clear sidewalks, driveways, and roads. We’ve outlined some municipal government snow removal techniques. 

Use Anti-Icing 

One ice and snow removal technique is to use anti-icing materials. There are many departments of transportation that have started to use a solution that’s 23% salt brine to pre-treat roads before the storm hits. According to estimates, pre-treating the road with brine can save as much as 75% of the total volume of salt that is applied. 

During the anti-icing process, the product is applied proactively to the pavement before the snow begins to fall. The goal is to break the bond that’s established between the snow and the pavement before it is able to fully form. There is only a small amount of product necessary to achieve this rather than applying a higher volume of a product once the bond has already formed. 

Try Pre-Wetting 

Another way to approach snow removal and street maintenance is referred to as pre-wetting. By pre-wetting the salt before applying it on the road, it can reduce the salt infiltration to aquifers ratio by 5%. This means it can better stick to the road while minimizing the scatter and bounce of salt granules. Not to mention, by pre-wetting you are activating the salt ensuring it works more quickly when the snow or ice hits it. 

Calibrate the Equipment 

municipal snow removal

The calibration process allows you to measure the specific amount of material that you apply. This helps to facilitate a more accurate and efficient de-icing process while using less salt. It’s not necessary to have a regulator to calibrate your equipment. Calibration procedures should ideally be a standard component of training for salt truck operators. 

Don’t Forget about the Variable Application Rates for Salt Distribution Systems 

When using an automated spreader control, salt truck operators can program their salt application rates so that the volume of salt that’s applied changes with ground speed. This helps to reduce the bounce and scatter of the material. These programs can take into consideration curves and hills that might require additional salt compared to flat, straight roads. There are vehicle location sensors that can precisely distribute salt distribution along a particular route. 

Store Salt Properly 

How to store salt is a part of your approach that you shouldn’t overlook. Proper storage can help minimize salt loss and pollution. Many privately-owned facilities and municipalities can protect salt investments and the environment by simply implementing the best practices. Make sure to build salt storage sites on impervious surfaces, implement secondary measures for containment, ensure the product is covered at all times, and regularly check structures for any breaks or tears.

Take Benefit of Modern Plow Types 

Today’s plows are designed to maximize the efficiency of snow removal, which in turn will minimize how much salt is needed to keep snow off of the roads. For example, modern plow types have:

  • Live edge blades with articulated segments that conform to uneven road surfaces.
  • Flexible plow blades are designed to conform to uneven surfaces to minimize the volume of salt needed while extending the life of the plow.

How to Apply Rock Salt with Less Harm

Rock salt can be applied strategically so it is effective at removing snow and ice while causing the least amount of harm. Here are some tips to keep in mind when applying your de-icer:

  • Apply the de-icing product before the ice and snow start to accumulate on the road’s surface.
  • Get rid of as much snow and ice as possible before you apply the de-icer after the snow has started to fall.
  • Follow the directions on the label. For example, there might be a suggested use for how much rock salt to apply per square foot. Using additional products won’t be more effective, it will only be more expensive.
  • If you have salt-sensitive vegetation, avoid using rock salt within 5-10 feet.

Road Salt Alternatives 

municipal government snow removal

Rock salt isn't the only option that you have to take care of municipal government snow removal. Here are some rock salt alternatives:

  • Calcium chloride is often a preferred choice over rock salt as it doesn’t have cyanide which can harm plants. Calcium chloride is about 3x the price of rock salt, but you’ll only need to use one-third as much, so you won’t be losing value. Calcium chloride is also effective in extremely cold weather conditions, as it works in temperatures as low as -25ºF.
  • Magnesium chloride is seen as the least toxic de-icing product, as it has less chloride than both rock salt and calcium chloride. This makes it a safer option for animals and plants. Magnesium chloride is also effective in lower temperatures as low as -20ºF. 
  • Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is often considered the best overall choice to safely melt ice as it is less toxic than chloride-based de-icers.

Tips for Municipal De-Icing and Snow Removal Agencies 

Here are some general tips to keep in mind before the thick of winter hits:

  • Establish a plan before the snow arrives: It's important to focus on creating an effective strategy when the weather is still warm. Consider the equipment that you’ll need to plow narrow streets with parked cars, how to clear a highway, etc.
  • Allocate time into training efforts: Your snow team should have plenty of dry runs so they are familiar with the equipment and prepared to handle any situations when they occur. 
  • Make sure equipment is ready to use: Look over any contractor’s equipment and be sure to install GPS or tracking systems into your vehicles so you can deploy them without a delay in the case of winter weather.
  • Use emergency purchase acquisitions (EPAs): In the case that there’s a winter weather event that exceeds your resource and equipment capabilities, use EPAs to bring in more resources.
  • Establish aid agreements with nearby jurisdictions: Call them if you run into a problem or need more resources.
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With the right tools and knowledge, you can take care of municipal snow removal with reduced stress. Our team at Ninja De-Icer is a proud bulk rock salt wholesaler who is happy to assist you and your municipality! If you’re interested in working with us, get a quote today.