MACEDONIA -- Brine is a magic potion, of sorts, that doesn't allow ice to bond to the roadways when it is applied prior to a snowstorm.

The liquid substance works on roads at temperatures down to minus-15 degrees, according to Macedonia Service Director John Hnottavange, while rock salt is only activated on streets down to about 22 degrees.

"It allows you to work at lower temperatures on the road surface," he said. "If the salt has to work harder to activate, we look at putting down brine beforehand. It is good for 24 hours before a storm, so the roads can be treated the day before."

Hnottavange said the city has only used brine for four years.

"It is not used all the time to save money," he said. "We use it sparingly and save it for when we feel we really need it. You want to use it when you know there's going to be some ice build-up. When there are higher temperatures -- in the upper 20s -- I tend not to put down brine because the salt will work."

Salt costs $31.65 a ton, he said, while brine costs 77 cents a gallon, or about $203 a ton.

Service departments in Northfield Village, Sagamore Hills Township and Northfield Center Township do not use it.

Hnottavange and his service department employees are "still tinkering with it to find out what the best applications are."

He said previously, the city used it on designated streets with more hills and curves including Shepard Hills Boulevard and the Route 82-Shepard Road area.

In the city's last snowstorm in early December, though, Hnottavange decided his department should apply it on "all the main roads for the first time because it was such a cold temperature. We could prevent any ice build-up, or black ice, forming on the pavement."

Hnottavange said they used almost 2,000 gallons of it.

"It worked well," he said. "But it was a lot to put down, so we're looking at things like brining the developments that we would normally go into last. So once we get into the developments, it would be easier to clear the roads."

He estimated the city used about 800 tons of rock salt in December, while he said the city uses about 5,000 tons of rock salt in a winter season, and it stores about 2,000 tons at one time.

On the original route that focused on the hills and curves, he said they'd go through about 700 gallons per application.

"In the future, for some of the areas that we previously did last, we may do those roads first instead," he said. "We're still in the beginning phases of using it. We'll try different ways and see what works best."

Another positive aspect about using brine is, it is up to 70 percent less corrosive on cars than regular rock salt, he said.

"That is huge, especially in Ohio," he said.

The service department has one brine truck that has a 900-gallon tank with a spray bar on the bottom. It spreads 30-35 gallons per lane mile. The output can be adjusted.

The city stores it in a 5,000-gallon tank. Hnottavange said brine is taken out of the ground from the Appalachian Mountain region. The city purchases it from a company in Mogadore.

"It comes straight to us, ready to us. We don't mix it with anything," he said, adding some service departments make their own brine using beet juice, water and salt, but the city doesn't have the facilities for that.

Brine and rock salt can also be spread simultaneously.

"As the brine is coming out of the shoot, it's hitting the rock salt as it's going out of the spinner," he said. "That would result in less salt usage. It wets the salt as you're spreading it, so it lets the salt stick better to the road instead of just bouncing off the roadway before the snowplow trucks arrive."

He said he believes the ratio is roughly 8-10 gallons of brine to about 300 pounds of rock salt if applying at the same time.

Before becoming service director, Hnottavange was one of the service department workers that drove the truck that spread the liquid substance. All the service department workers do.

"It's easier than putting down salt because you don't have to worry about whether your truck's salt bed is empty," he said.

When it's time to apply the special substance to the roads, though, Hnottavange's typical instructions to the driver are simple:

"Go brine."

Mike Lesko: 330-541-9432