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False snow alarm allows test run of county’s brine-making machine

brine spraying on cove road

The county spread 18,000 gallons of their own brine Monday ahead of an expected snow. While the weather took a turn for the better, the test run was still judged a success.

The first snow of the season turned out to be less of a snow, more of a wet mess  – but the winter weather “event” still gave the county an opportunity to test its new brine making equipment with “better than expected” results. 

“It went extremely well,” said Pickens Commission Chair Rob Jones. “Much better than expected.” 

In just four hours on Monday morning, crews put down 18,000 gallons of brine on dozens of the busiest county roads. They started treatment on school property, the hospital, county buildings, and moved on to

Henderson Mountain, Monument Road, Sunrise Ridge, Cove Road, and between 40 and 50 other county roads. 

In the past, the most brine the county ever put down in any storm was 6,000 gallons due to limitations of their equipment and supplies. 

“This is some fancy equipment,” the commissioner said. “It’s the same the DOT uses. It mixes the brine to a certain special recipe. It’s kind of like making homemade ice cream – too little salt and it will melt the ice, too much salt and it will just make it refreeze quicker. This machine knows exactly what consistency to mix it to.”

Before, the county had to “hand mix” brine in large 2,000-gallon plastic totes with no exact recipe, and was paying steep prices per gallon for supplies. By making the solution in-house and with the ability to store salt at the new brine facility on Camp Road, the county will have significant savings and the system will pay for itself in two years. 

“We’ll be able to buy salt in the summer, too, which will make it even cheaper,” Jones said. For Monday’s spreading Jones said they don’t have an exact price yet, but want to pinpoint it to a cost per mile when everything is totalled later this week.

After roads are pre-treated with the “special recipe,” Jones said the brine is effective for two to three days – even if it gets wet, as was the case Tuesday morning. 

Jones assured us that the brine had not washed off Tuesday.

The solution prevents ice and snow from adhering to the pavement. After roads are treated, the next step is to wait for the winter weather to arrive and  bring in scrapers and gravel. 

“After we put the brine down that’s it for the machine,” he said. “It has done its job.” 

But the way the weather shaped up, as of press time Tuesday afternoon it appeared that scrapers, plows, and gravel wouldn’t be necessary. 

“What I’m concerned about are the wet roads and dropping temperatures,” Jones said. “The brine should be good for a few days, but I don’t want to give people false sense of security. People still need to be aware of the possibility of some black ice. We are just waiting to see how things go and go from there.”