Experimenting With Beet Juice On Frozen Roads
MADISON - With plenty of snow and a shortage of salt, a couple of Wisconsin municipalities are experimenting with beet juice to melt snow and ice on their roads.
"It works fabulously," said Chris Walsh, operations director for Beloit, which has used the juice for seven years.
The city applies a solution of beet juice, saltwater and calcium chloride. The beet juice lowers the brine's freezing point so it works at temperatures where regular saltwater wouldn't be effective.
Beet juice also is better for the environment and helps reduce the city's dependence on road salt, which has been hard for many cities to get this season, Walsh said.
The beet juice does turn streets a bit brownish red, she said, "but it doesn't stay like that."
The solution, called Geomelt, uses a juice byproduct left when sugar has been extracted from sugar beets.
It costs about $1.80 per gallon compared to 4 cents a gallon for brine, but Beloit has saved money by using about a third less rock salt, Walsh said.
"We're getting much more bang for our buck," she said.
Before some storms, city workers use the juice to treat roads so brine and salt are better able to stick.
"This is, environmentally, the cutting edge because you're pretreating and keeping the liquid on the street," Beloit city manager Larry Arft said. "It is just incredibly effective."
Dane County has been experimenting with its own mix of beet juice extract and brine this winter on some county roads and pavement around county facilities.
"At this point, we're just in the testing stages," said Gerald Mandli, Dane County commissioner and director of public works, highway and transportation.
Madison also is interested in beet juice, "but we would kind of like to see what other people are doing and gauge their results," said George Dreckmann, of the Madison Streets Division.
The juice has appeal because "it doesn't have that chloride effect on the lakes," Dreckmann said.
Beloit will have a better idea of the environmental benefit of using less road salt this spring after it tests a city well that has had high levels of saline and salt in the past, Walsh said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)