Montana DOT Begins Using Salt Brine, Limits Use of Magnesium Chloride

December 07, 2011

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Officials say salt brine is a less expensive and less corrosive alternative to magnesium chloride, and it's more effective than pure rock salt. It's already in use in the Kalispell and Whitefish areas as well as Missoula, Helena, and Butte.

The debate surrounding the use of corrosive chemicals to clear roads of slush, snow and ice is a long and loud one, but official in Montana say spraying liquid salt brine will provide the snow melting capability they need, without the corrosive effects of salt and magnesium chloride.

The only downside to the brine solution, they admit, is that it can't be used at temperatures below 18 degrees because it freezes.

The brine is a solution of 23% salt mixed with water with a corrosion inhibitor added. It is sprayed from trucks in liquid form onto road surfaces to melt snow and ice.

MDT officials say they will continue using sand, along with pure rock salt and magnesium chloride in limited instances, mostly in areas where the brine is not available or when temperatures are too low. Rock salt is often mixed with sand to prevent the sand from freezing. Salt and Magnesium chloride cannot be mixed together.

Sanding roads frequently causes dust, and forces the state to sweep the roads to pick up the sand.

The state had also experimented with a corn-based product but discontinued its use after receiving complaints about its bad smell.

Corrosion and Cost

While the brine solution is said to be less corrosive than magnesium chloride or salt, residents in the Great Falls area are concerned about the impact of the product on their cars.

The Great Falls Tribune quotes Mick Johnson, district administrator for Great Falls Division of the Montana Department of Transportation as saying the 23% brine solution is less corrosive the pure salt because the salt is at a lower concentration.

"First of all, we're not spreading salt, we're spreading salt brine," Johnson said. "It's 23 percent salt."

Raw salt is placed on roads in some states, but that's not what will happen in Great Falls, he said.

"Salt dissolves in nature," Johnson said. "It's a natural element."

Johnson also told the paper that magnesium chloride costs about 90 cents a gallon compared to the brine, which costs about 20 cents a gallon.

According to KFBB Television of Great Falls, last year MDT used around 240,000 gallons of magnesium chloride in Great Falls at a cost of $216,000. If MDT needed to use the same amount of salt brine this year as magnesium chloride last year, MDT would save about $120,000.


  1. 1. John Mohan [ November 12, 2014 @ 06:52AM ]

    Or, people could buy proper winter tires (as they are required to do in Europe), which in the long run, costs about the same as using one set of tires throughout the year (tire wear is tire wear - two sets of tires last twice as long). It's interesting to me how we in the U.S. feel we must salt our roads, damaging the environment and ruining our cars prematurely, while countries such as Germany (with no speed limit on parts of their autobahn system, less accidents per mile driven, less injuries per mile driven and less deaths per mile driven) seem to be able to do just fine without using any salt on their roads.

  2. 2. T. Read [ September 13, 2015 @ 12:44PM ]

    A former DOT supervisor told me that the salt is necessary because people insist on getting from place to place in the same time summer or winter. Speed is of the essence, so deicing is necessary. I say learn how to drive in our conditions, or stay home or move to where its nice all the time. I am sick and tired of my vehicles rotting away and being helpless to stop it. We all know that corrosives are NOT the answer.

  3. 3. demetrios [ November 14, 2017 @ 03:02AM ]

    what about using non corrosive zeolite for traction control in the winter and having the secondary benefit that it also used as a soil amendment product. Rich in Potassium, Calcium and with High CEC


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