With icy roads across US, methods besides salt being used

U.S. -

From cheese brine to molasses, transportation officials across the country have utilized available additives to help melt icy roads this winter.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

With the typical salt used to de-ice roadways ineffective below 16 degrees Fahrenheit, transportation officials have adopted additives that can keep salt working at temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit while weighing the financial cost and environmental impact of those additives.

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"It's all about availability… States are using whatever they can find that works, especially in low temperatures." Tony Dorsey, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials spokesman

New York and Pennsylvania have been testing sugar beet juice, created during the sugar refining process, as an additive in a de-icing mixture. Carbohydrates in the beet juice can prevent ice from sticking to roads.

Milwaukee, WI

In Dec. 2012, Milwaukee began a pilot program in which cheese brine is dumped on the city's roads to help melt ice and snow. The brine is a waste product created when making cheese and city officials hope the free additive can replace the 70-cents-a-gallon liquid calcium chloride currently used.

"You want to use provolone or mozzarella. Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it." Jeffrey Tews, Milwaukee Public Works Dept.

A maximum of eight gallons of cheese brine may be mixed with each ton of salt. Wisconsin produced 2.7 billion pounds of cheese in 2012. Milwaukee's 2013 pilot program cost about $6,500. The city spent $6.5 million combating snow and ice on the roads in 2012.

A cocktail of 80% cheese brine and 20% beet juice helps keep salt from scattering and cuts the amount of salt used by 30%, reducing damage to cars, roads and plants. New York state officials plan to use 100,000 gallons of the brine-beet concoction on 570 miles of roadways during winter 2013-14.

"We've kind of spiced up our operation a little bit." Al Olson, public works administrator for Ankeny, Iowa

Officials in Ankeny, a suburb of Des Moines, were given nine tons of garlic salt by a local spice company to mix with the town's supply. Salt prices nationwide have climbed to $60-$120 a ton, up from $30-$50 a ton a year ago.

Ohio's Hamilton County uses nontoxic ash from coal power plants to stretch its salt supply. Washington state has turned to mixing molasses with saltwater, creating a gooey mixture that can keep roadways clear for up to four days. The state has used it in 11 counties this winter, up from one a year ago.

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