Maine towns slow to embrace brining roads


WINSLOW (AP) — Environmental advocates and state officials are urging Maine towns to re-think their use of sand and salt on winter roadways, but few are embracing the alternatives.

State experts concerned about the water quality of Maine lakes say pre-wetting roads with a brine solution is more effective and safer for the environment. They’ve created a Salt Management Task Force to draft best management practices that they hope to distribute to plowing contractors who work with towns and businesses this spring.

While the state has seen success using brine solution, some experts told the Kennebec Journal ( that public works directors are more resistant to change.

“Tradition plays a lot in this business,” said Pete Coughlan, director of the Maine Local Roads Center, through which the transportation department offers training, technical assistance and information to municipal employees. “People are used to sand and salt. The biggest thing is the unwillingness to move out of the comfort zone of a practice that’s been done for decades.”

In Belgrade, which recently switched to a brine solution, Town Manager Greg Gill said it’s too early to say whether the town will save money because the first year has brought challenges including training staff and dealing with unexpected temperatures and clogged nozzles.

“I do believe once the weather straightens around and the contractors are trained and the equipment is right, I think yes it will save money,” he said. But he is glad the town made the change even if cost savings don’t materialize.

“I’ll tell you our road conditions are a heck of a lot better,” he said. “Savings is one thing, but people’s lives and safety is another. To me, that’s very important.”