(WXYZ) — It may not feel like a bad winter so far, but in Oakland County, they have already used more salt this year than the last three years.
That’s because we’ve had a lot of freezing rain and ice events.
That salt can hurt the environment, but untreated roads present their own dangers.
“We have to balance human safety with the environment,” Road Commission of Oakland County Craig Bryson said.
Bryson said they now use 20 to 30 percent less salt compared to 15 years ago.
Currently, they are utilizing natural brine, pumped from their garages in Milford, Davisburg, and Orion Township. The brine is a mix of salt and water and helps the salt stick to the roads instead of washing away into the environment.
“We are one of the few agencies that had our own wells, and we are able to pump it out of the ground, which is both getting the most natural type of brine but also a big cost savings for us,” Bryson said.
This is one of several efforts the road commission in Oakland County takes to cut back on salt and help the environment. Other road commissions are taking similar measures.
In Macomb County, pretreatments of the roads have allowed them to reduce salt use by 30%.
In Wayne County, drivers are instructed not to continue salting after the first round of salt and to instead plow. This instruction excludes ramps, curves, and hills.
This year, the state is exploring new ways of cleaning the roads.
“We are doing three different pilots in three different locations right now in the state where we are going to use pretty much liquid only,” MDOT Division Administrator Mark Geib said.
Those three garages are Montcalm, Grand Ledge, and Mt. Pleasant.
“We found out from other states that by using a liquid brine instead of putting rock salt directly on the road you can save as high as 40%,” Geib said.
MDOT is also experimenting with agricultural products like using a corn byproduct or beat byproducts mixed with salt.
This is something Oakland County has done in the past, but Bryson says he did not find it as effective.