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To Brine, or Not to Brine?

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Cap'n Crunch
Fri Mar 01 2019, 03:01PM Email Thread Print View

Registered Member #12800
Joined: Tue Jan 05 2016, 09:02PM
Posts: 340
Today's chatbox got into lengthy discussions about the benefits and detriments of brine used in de-icing roads. Hopefully, someone can figure out how to capture the discussions to date and include themt here for posterity.

While most everyone bas discussing the merits of cinders versus brine in terms of traction control, I went in another direction and started looking into Lumber Jill's comments regarding the impact of brine on lake water quality and its effect on nearby vegetation. Here's what I found.

Water quality in Big Bear Lake is generally regulated by the Santa Ana Regional Water quality Control Board. Some time ago, they adopted what is called "The Basin Plan" which encompasses Big Bear Lake and its watershed. That plan analyzed the status of water quality throughout the region and came up with recommendations as to how issues should be addressed.

In the plan, Big Bear Lake and its major tributary streams (Grout, Rathbone, Knickerbocker and Summit) were identified as "Impaired Water Bodies" due to pollution from urban runoff. The plan went on to identify classes of pollutants and created a framework as to how those pollutants should be addressed.

Sadly, with respect to Lumber Jill's expressed concerns regarding the impact of brine water runoff on the lake, the constituents of brine don't appear to be on the radar. The plan identifies the following major classes of pollutants and establishes Total Mass Daily Limits (TMDLs) for the following contaminants: Metals, Noxious Aquatic Plants, Nutrients, Sedimentation, Siltation and Mercury. Chlorides and mineral salts (sodium, Calcium and Magnesium don't appear to be covered by the TMDLs.

There are standards for brine constituents when it comes to potable drinking water and groundwater. The Big Bear Community Services District posts annual reports on its website that specify the standards for sodium, calcium and chloride and the levels currently detected. As it stands, the current detected levels are nowhere near maximum.

With all that being said, I'm not sure which agency is dealing with the issue of brine water impacts. I suspect that the drinking water standards came from the EPA but I don't know which agency is responsible for enforcement. I also assume that Caltrans consulted with the SARWCB and local water agencies before instituting the brine program as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

The problem is that the questions about brine impacts cross over the boundaries of several State and local agencies and its not clear to me who is responsible for answering those questions. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of this topic can shed some light.

Tim (KE6PMA)
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Lumber Jill ⭐
Fri Mar 01 2019, 03:10PM


Joined: Sun Aug 20 2006, 02:53PM
Posts: 9636
Thanks for this info Cap'n. This is good information. Sadly, we are a reactionary state (society?) and it won't make the radar of those that make the decisions, until it is too late.

Here is some info I posted about de-icers in another thread. I decided to combine them.

As a chemist, I can tell you that most deicers are the same, regardless of their names or claims. They are one or more of the following salts: sodium chloride, magnesium chloride and calcium chloride. In reality, deicers could be made out of ANYTHING that desolves in water...sugar, alcohol, salt...but it always comes down to cost. Salt is cheap. But it's also hard on the environment. I can also tell you that below about 25 degrees F, they don't work. Ice will still form.

Pro's of using salt/deicer/brine:
-Keeps ice from forming on roads
-makes it easier to remove snow from the roads

Con's of using salt/deicer/brine:
-Damage to vehicles (accelerated rusting)
-Dehydration of roadside vegetation, leading to tree die-off
-Salt accumulation in the lake and water table

The alternative to salt is cinders. They provide traction and the black color helps speed ice melting when the sun comes out. I personally prefer cinders to salt. Having said that, I have slide more often from the accumulation of excess cinders than I have from ice!

This is a good article about the topic that IDKnothin posted: [Click Here]

What doesn't kill me does NOT make me stronger. It makes me anxious, bitchy, and vulnerable...but nobody wants to see that embroidered on a pillow...Lisa Kogan...thx LXL...sorry i stole it from you! Ok, maybe I'm not sorry :-P

Life isn't like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your ass tomorrow...Larry the Cable Guy
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Forest Grump
Sat Mar 02 2019, 09:15AM
Registered Member #1848
Joined: Fri Jun 05 2009, 07:35PM
Posts: 7
I too am a chemist. Microbiologist first, biology, chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry. I believe the overall water disrtrict in charge is the Lahonton Water District for whom I have consulted - their legal staff.

Actually sodium is a water soluble metal. When put in solution it is called a brine. So when CT uses a brine they buy the product as a stolid - road salt and they add water to form a brine which they spray on the roads.
The road salt is not pure, it has a lot of “dirt” in low percentages. It’s chemical composition is not known. The other component of brine is the water which is also an unknown entity as far as quality.
When you are on the other side you must get a discharge permit. I see no discharge permit. You also need an environmental impact study, I see none.

Sodium is pretty much infinitely soluble, disperse it - it’s there. No easy way to go pick it back up. Take a trip to Baldwin lake when it’s dry and you can see the salts and the lack of vegetation.
Our environment woulld best be described as alpine riparian - very sensitive.
Is salt corrosive - definitely. I would have to look at the rules for the use of corrosive chemicals. My friend and buddy who I work with I have not been able to contact. He is a hydrogeologist and is old but very current in all this.

The easiest way to control CT is do they have the proper permitting. Remember once down that salt is there forever in the basin.

Please forgive my typing I just had a total reverse shoulder replacement.

Now, is a chemical ice reducer even necessary and if it is what is the best product to use for this very sensitive environment? Are there other products that might work as well with a lower \environmental impact such a sugar beet juice or even cinders?

PS: believe it or not some very large state agencies have a history of making huge environmental mistakes including CT.

If amproduct is needed let’s find the best one with the least side effects. After all accidents to a degree are fine, especially ice related. Lots of damage to vehicles whic stimulates the economy. Doctors are kept busy. People learn there is that aw [censored] moment - going to fast - sliding. To a degree the gene pool is working. There is some innocent tragedy but in all a lot of bouncing and banging.

Forest Grump
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Lumber Jill ⭐
Sat Mar 02 2019, 10:37AM


Joined: Sun Aug 20 2006, 02:53PM
Posts: 9636
Hello fellow chemist, Forest Grump! Always nice to have reinforcements!

What doesn't kill me does NOT make me stronger. It makes me anxious, bitchy, and vulnerable...but nobody wants to see that embroidered on a pillow...Lisa Kogan...thx LXL...sorry i stole it from you! Ok, maybe I'm not sorry :-P

Life isn't like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your ass tomorrow...Larry the Cable Guy
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Sat Mar 02 2019, 06:29PM

Registered Member #2069
Joined: Mon Feb 08 2010, 05:57PM
Posts: 553
Here is a lengthy article from The Grizzly, on the effects of brine in Big Bear.

[Click Here]
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