News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 5, 2014

City trying alternative to melt ice on streets

TERRE HAUTE — The snowstorm that hit town Tuesday afternoon has the City of Terre Haute trying out an alternative form of ice melter designed to clear city streets at lower temperatures.

The Terre Haute Street Department on Tuesday purchased about eight tons of sand mixed with calcium chloride — enough to fill one plow truck. The mixture will melt ice and snow at temperatures well below those of traditional sand/salt mixtures.

“It really works on the ice,” said Cliff Romas of New Interstate Concrete, whose plant on Margaret Avenue provided the city’s first order. “It’ll work right down to zero” degrees, he said.

Brad Miller, the city’s transportation director, said the alternative mix could be needed in large quantities if winter weather continues to blast the area and existing supplies of traditional salt/sand mix run low.

“In a pinch, it would be better than having nothing,” Miller said. Tuesday’s snow was expected to provide a test run for the product, he added.

“I want to see what it does,” Miller said of that opportunity.

The sand treated with calcium chloride costs about $400 per truck load, Miller said. That compares with between $250 and $300 per truck load for traditional salt/sand mixes, he said.

The effectiveness of salt as an ice melter drops off considerably as temperatures fall below about 20 degrees, according to a 2005 publication from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Salt mixed with calcium chloride works at much lower temperatures and also melts ice much faster than salt, the publication states.

On Tuesday afternoon, trucks inside the Street Department’s sprawling compound at 14th and Deming streets were being prepared for the approaching snowfall. As the first flakes were drifting through the cold air, department employees were readying their vehicles for what appeared to be the second big winter storm to hit the area this year.

The truck loaded with sand treated with calcium chloride is the one driven by second-generation street department worker Jeff Crabill. His vehicle will spread the material on his downtown route, he said. That covers virtually the entire downtown between Fourth and Seventh streets and also areas much farther east, including Wabash Avenue, he said.

Romas said New Interstate Concrete can make sand treated with calcium chloride solution upon demand. The company has just started making the product, but will take orders for pickup at its Margaret Avenue plant. Anyone interested in purchasing the treated sand should call the company at 812-234-5983, Romas said.

The product is corrosive, so it would not be good to leave it in the bed of a pickup truck, Romas noted. It also must be kept dry.

For now, the City of Terre Haute is performing a test run with the new melter, Miller said. But, if the winter weather continues as it has, the city may need to purchase quite a lot more in the coming weeks.

“I’ve been [at the street department] 10 years,” Miller said. “This is the worst winter I’ve seen in that time.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or


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