2015 Environmental Leadership Award Recipients
14th Annual Road Salt Symposium
February 5, 2015
Veterans’ Administration-Minneapolis campus: Jason Brainard, Michael Hubbs and Scott Mattson
The VA grounds staff on the Minneapolis campus has changed their winter maintenance operations significantly in the past 3 years.
Until the winter of 2012-2013 they were using rock salt exclusively, and then part of their crew attended winter maintenance training which exposed them to a different way of conducting their deicing/snow-removal operations. They are located in the Minnehaha Watershed adjacent to the Mississippi River, and are aware that it is a very salt-sensitive area, so adopting more environmentally responsible operations seemed prudent.
They began by adapting some of existing equipment for liquid deicing compounds, monitoring application rates, and calibrating dispersal ratios. A Snow Plan was developed which included more assertive weather monitoring, putting staff on alert, and applying liquid compounds (up to 8 hours prior to an event). Seven staff begin work at midnight to mechanically remove snow, which can take 3-5 hours for all parking lots and sidewalks. A second group of staff arrive in the early morning to do the walkway bridges, stairs and other areas that plows and sweepers can’t reach. It is labor intensive, (cont.)
but the crew understands that early treatment and plowing is critical. The VA now has a smaller crew working nights and weekends to keep areas clear, and to reduce compaction or icing.
Part of the Snow Plan is based on using more effective products for the weather conditions. The VA research included conversations with the University of Minnesota’s Landcare team about their experiences with liquid deicing compounds, specifically magnesium chloride and calcium chloride.
The VA maintenance team approached upper VA management with information demonstrating that liquid anti-icing and deicing could save time, money, and reduce our environmental impact. During the winter of 2013-14 more staff were sent to training and training was also brought in-house. Liquids were integrated into our program beginning with anti-icing paired with power brooms on our sidewalks. They were able to achieve “clean” surfaces with incredible ease. Currently, they are using a corrosion-inhibited calcium chloride brine. They began the use of brine after purchasing 275 gallon totes and acquiring four totes so that two could be used while two were being refilled. They had the ability to use up to 1100 gal per storm event if necessary. Many organizations used more salt due to extreme winter weather, but the VA maintenance team actually decreased their use by 23% to 680 tons.
The VA maintenance team ordered 4000 gallons of brine for use this winter and has only ordered 400 tons of bulk salt. They created permanent brine storage by repurposing military surplus water tanks capable of storing up to 8000 gallons.
They are committed to their plan of anti-icing, better snow removal, and only applying granular salt as needed. They hope to decrease granular salt use by another 50% this year.
The team at VAMC believes that, with education and persistence, new products can be proven to do a better job with less environmental impact. The changes were big, but these new methods are changes for the better.