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Can seawater be used as brine for deicing roads?

Ken Little
StarNews
A car drives up a deserted Market St. through the ice and snow on Jan. 29, 2014.  StarNews photo By Matt Born.

A car drives up a deserted Market St. through the ice and snow on Jan. 29, 2014. StarNews photo By Matt Born.

Q. Can seawater be used as brine for deicing roads? Is the brine solution used stronger and, if so, could they add salt to seawater to save money?

A. The answer to the question of using seawater for salt brine is both yes and no, said Gerard M. Taylor, New Hanover County maintenance engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways.

The ocean contains a salt average of 3.5 percent, which would lower its freezing point to 28.2 degrees, Taylor said.

“The brine solution produced by (N.C. DOT) is 23.3 percent and reduces the freeze point to 6 degrees below zero. Any greater percentage increases the freeze point rapidly. Therefore, you could have too much salt,” Taylor said.

As for using seawater and adding salt to it, Taylor said the practice creates several challenges, including piping the seawater to a production plant, filtering out the organics and sediments and maintaining a constant seawater salt percentage, which varies with rainfall.

There are also the matters of ensuring ocean wildlife is not harmed, and environmental permitting.

“Hence, it does not make it impossible, just cost prohibitive for the local need,” Taylor said.

RELATED LINKS:

Does the city of Wilmington own a snowplow?

Why do we close schools/government offices whenever there’s even a hint of snow?

When was the last time Wilmington had a white Christmas?

 

 

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