SPRING GROVE – The salt trucks in Spring Grove are a little different from the ones that crisscross other small towns.
That’s because the anti-icing mixture being scattered across the roads was made in-house, saving taxpayers $30,000 over the past three years, said Matt Wittum, Spring Grove Public Works supervisor.
“A lot of municipalities use liquids with their winter maintenance, but the majority of them are either larger municipalities or if they’re using them, they’re just buying them from vendors pre-made,” he said.
In the large garage behind Spring Grove Village Hall is a makeshift blending operation. A livestock tank the village bought from a local farmer is filled with road salt. The salt is mixed with water, then a sugar-beet mixture called GeoMelt in gigantic tanks with neat, handwritten measurements added to the side.
The program took a few years to build, Wittum said, but it didn’t cost much.
The do-it-yourself operation is turning heads and will be featured in two industry publications: Public Works Magazine and the American Public Works Association Reporter. Spring Grove also has been salting three other communities’ roads so they can see how it works before they invest in their own system.
“A lot of smaller communities are under the impression that you need large budgets or it takes a lot of money to get going in doing liquids, and it really doesn’t,” Wittum said. “That’s my big pitch.”
By making the mixture, the village not only saves money in terms of the purchasing cost but also because liquids are more effective than using salt brine.
Salt brine is effective only when the pavement is at least about 15 degrees in temperature; the GeoMelt and salt brine mixture can comfortably go to zero degrees without an issue, Wittum said.
Liquids also are helpful because they weigh the salt down, keeping more of it on the road, and salt is activated by liquids, he said.