In order to reduce the amount of chloride that reaches our water, Carver County Public Works evaluated pickle brine as an alternative practice for controlling snow and ice in 2016. A grant from the Local OPERA Program helped purchase the brine making system and support further research into the viability of using pickle brine in winter maintenance operations.
Staff restored an old VariTech 600 brine maker obtained from MnDOT for the project. Sodium-rich pickle juice was obtained free from a nearby canning facility.
After extensive testing and analysis, VariTech engineers and Carver County staff concluded that pickle brine acquired from the cannery had to be exactly the same (salinity, vinegar content, and sugar content) for each and every batch or the system sensors would fail. Unfortunately, the pickle brine supplier could not provide chemically consistent batches, and the VariTech system was unable to produce a consistent blend of 23.3 percent brine solution using the pickle brine. Although the pickle brine alternative was not successful, the project demonstrates that there can be an alternative anti-icing product.
This project benefits other agencies considering the use of food production byproducts. And as technology continues to advance, Carver County may revisit the use of pickle brine as a viable snow- and ice-control option.
For further information about the project, check out these resources: