Snow removal is sweet at Gagetown base

Article / March 16, 2016 / Project number: 16-0059

Gagetown, New Brunswick — Troops at 5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown have found a way to deal with snow and ice removal that is both more efficient and more environmentally responsible than the rock salt used in many Canadian municipalities. And it smells just like molasses cookies.

The Technical Services Branch (TSB) of 5 CDSB Gagetown spent nearly a year researching ways to improve snow and ice control on the base, which is Canada’s second-largest with more than 1,000 kilometres of roads.

Major Gord Bennett, who commands the base’s Transportation Company of the TSB, researched and found a solution in the form of road brine, which is a mix of salt, water and other additives, as well as locally-sourced industrial molasses, which accounts for the pleasant smell. Molasses is already used in commercial brine operations throughout southern Ontario and New Brunswick. Other brine mixes developed by private industry in the United States include juices left over from the production of beet sugar.

Maj Bennett said the molasses ensures the brine sticks to the pavement, unlike rock salt which gets ploughed or swept off with multiple passing vehicles. The brine requires fewer applications, resulting in significant savings.

Benefits of using brine include:

  • Causes less environmental damage
  • Helps falling snow melt sooner when applied prior to a storm
  • Helps prevent ice buildup when traffic packs down the snow
  • Enables ice buildup to be peeled off easier, shortening ploughing time
  • Improves road conditions for a longer time period per application
  • Works to -210C while road salt is typically effective to -160C.
  • Less vehicle corrosion
  • Saves fuel
  • Saves on the cost of salt
  • Reduces labour costs
  • Reduces wear and tear on trucks and equipment
  • Lowers risk of operator injury in collisions during bad weather

Brine is a more efficient use of salt, he added. When mixed into a brine, a kilogram of salt will cover an area 10 times larger than dry salt alone. Previously, almost 500 tons of salt was spread on 5 CDSB’s roadways each year, Maj Bennett said. Spring runoff has increased salt levels in local freshwater bodies “to a level comparable to that of the ocean.

Various independent estimates suggest that brine reduces salt use by as much as 90 per cent, Maj Bennett added.

Tests were conducted in the winter of 2015/2016 on brined versus unbrined roads to demonstrate effectiveness. Two applications of brine in a 24 hour period were given to certain base roadways after ploughing following a blizzard. Both applications were not proactively applied as is normal practice, but were applied to break ice buildup. The accompanying photos show the results. Within 24 hours, the first road was almost entirely clear while the second still had a significant amount of ice on it.

Other tests and research are continuing, including looking for biodegradable material to replace or add to traction sand.

In the spring, the molasses residue does not attract pests or accumulate on the roadside, noted Maj Bennett.

The quantity of molasses is not significant enough to attract wildlife and dissipates with rain.‎ There isn't enough to feel or make a sticky mess on the road. Being mixed with the dirt on the road also does not make it palatable for animal tongues. We've also not seen any changes in wildlife activity with it on the base.

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs with files from Major Gord Bennett, Officer Commanding Transportation Company, Technical Services Branch Gagetown

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