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ISU is reducing its salt intake

Raw rock salt to create the salt brine on campus.

Raw rock salt to create salt brine solution

As winter is quickly approaching, ISU Grounds crew is ready for it with their new salt rock plant and salt brine plant.  These plants are a reality due to three years of research, a strong partnership with Parking & Transportation and the availability of budgeted funds.

Using salt brines proves not only to be more effective on roads, but it is also cost effective. It takes four times less salt to prevent ice accumulation than to remove ice after it has formed. —  

Rock Salt Plant

When the Grounds Crew becomes aware of weather that can bring moisture and freezing temperatures, the crew spreads rock salt on large areas (like parking lots).  However they don’t use just any rock salt, this rock salt will be mixed (onsite) with a special product which permits the salt to remain effective at lower temperatures.

The mixing plant (which is a re-purposed fertilizer plant) was installed in August with assistance from carpenters, electricians and a local contractor for the cement pad.  The rock salt is received in the back parking lot at Facilities, then processed in batches to adhere the special solvent before being moved to the storage shed where it gets loaded into dump bed trucks for disbursement as needed.

For the weather Central Illinois is expected to receive this winter, this is great news! The modified rock salt will also reduce Illinois State University salt consumption by 30 percent due to its ability to be effective longer at lower temperatures.

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Salt Brine Plant
Through the research, the team learned of the many efficiencies in time and money when proactively using salt brine before ice and snow accumulate.   Using a salt  brine enhanced solution, it creates a bond with the surface decreasing slippery conditions before they start.

The salt brine will be created onsite using rock salt, an enhanced solution and water mixed together in an agitator, overflowing into a holding tank resulting in salt brine that is 23 percent salt.  The salt brine is monitored to maintain that percentage, keeping the salt suspended in the solution.  The Grounds Crew then dispenses the solution from a truck or Gator to spray walkways, stairs and necessary parking deck areas.

There are several key benefits to creating the salt brine onsite.  First, the Grounds Crew can make the salt brine for over 50% less than purchasing pre-made salt brine.  Secondly, since the brine stays effective longer, the Crew can pre-treat areas 48-72 hours before the ice forms, dramatically decreases slippery conditions across campus.  Third, this salt brine solution is 70 percent less corrosive than regular rock salt thereby decreasing the negative effects on campus infrastructure and equipment. Lastly, this solution is also more effective at melting ice at 11◦F, an increase over the previous effective temperature of 18 degrees F.

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Special thanks to our dedicated ISU teams: Grounds Crew, Parking & Transportation, Carpenters and Electricians for all your work on these projects.   Bring on the winter snow and ice, ISU is ready!


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