County to test alternative to calcium chloride on roads

The Hubbard County Highway Department will conduct tests comparing the effectiveness of calcium chloride and an alternative additive called Base One.

At their April 14 work session, county commissioner Dan Stacey noted that townships and lake associations have concerns about the application, use, amount and environmental effects of calcium chloride on county roads.

Hendrickson Township does not use calcium chloride and has requested that the county not use any chloride,” Stacey said. “I understand there is a fine line between maintenance of a road and extra expenditures that would be needed to be put down if we didn’t have a bonding unit.”

Stacey asked Public Works Coordinator Jed Nordin to provide more information to the Hubbard County Board so it could “collectively decide in the future where we’re going to go: Base One, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride.”

Nordin said calcium chloride has been utilized in the county for a long time. “We toyed with magnesium chloride. In a couple years, we found that wasn’t as effective,” he said, adding it isn’t really an option until its cost-effectiveness improves.


The county is currently using the Base One additive in its paving projects, “more as a base stabilizer, not as a stabilizer for any surface aggregate, but several other counties do,” Nordin said.

He explained that Polk County, for example, will apply Base One one year, then follow up the next year with calcium chloride “because of the job that does on the dust.”

Nordin said his professional opinion is “that we have to continue using something.” Doing nothing is not an acceptable option. “We’ve still got roads that we need to worry about and do the best we can with the funding that we’ve got,” he said.

Nordin pointed out that traffic levels and road conditions vary, so analysis of effectiveness must be done case by case. “It’s going to play out differently with a gravel road that has 250 cars per day versus one that has 30.”

The cost of gravel is increasing, he said, due to availability of aggregates and “how far they end up trucking them to the job sites for us. This is going to continue to get worse as the natural resources are going away, so we do need to be careful in that. And that just reinforces the need to use some of these stabilizers. Not only are we keeping aggregate on the road, but that’s where we see our cost benefit. We’re not out there blading as much. There’s not as much wear and tear on vehicles.”

Board chair Char Christenson asked if township boards could request Base One from the county.

Nordin said that is an option. Townships can jump on the county’s contract. “Some chose to take advantage of it, and some don’t.”

County commissioner Ted Van Kempen said he likes the idea of testing roads within the county. “Then we’d have our own data and see how well it is or isn’t working.”


Nordin proposed applying only Base One on a test section near Akeley. In the northern part of the county, he suggested applying half and half, then making a comparison.

The testing proposal was slated to be on the board’s April 21 consent agenda.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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