Midwest cities eye options to costly road salt
Local governments concerned about the environmental threat of runoff from salt widely used to clear wintry streets are turning to more nature-friendly substitutes.
Dealing with last week's blizzard across the Great Plains and Midwest, Anoka County, Minn., has been using sugar cane molasses. In Des Plaines, Ill., it's beet juice. In several places in — where else? — Wisconsin, it's cheese brine.
The alternatives don't eliminate the need for road salt but reduce the amount required.
That means savings for some road agencies.
When Moe Norby, technical support manager in Polk County, Wis., first got his county of about 44,000 people to use cheese brine a few years ago, he says it netted savings of $40,000 in the first year.
“We mix it with salt or salt sand,” Norby says. “Dry salt will bounce (when applied). This saves 30 percent of salt by eliminating the bounce factor, so we can use less salt to get the same effect.”
Perhaps best of all, the cheese brine, which the local F&A Dairy Products Co. uses to soak certain cheeses, is free, Norby says; the dairy previously disposed of the cheese brine in treatment plants.
Now Milwaukee wants in. Alderman Tony Zielinski recently introduced a proposal for the city to study using cheese brine.
“It's a win-win situation,” Zielinski says. “Obviously, in Wisconsin, we've got a lot of cheese brine.”
Tim Ridder, assistant director of public works and engineering for Des Plaines, says the city of 58,600 uses a mixture of beet juice and calcium chloride to wet streets before snow or ice strike.
“When snow hits pavement, it binds to the pavement,” Ridder says. “If you use salt, you're trying to break that bind. If you pre-wet, you use less salt, which is better for the environment.”
Auburn Hills, Mich., a Detroit suburb, uses a mixture of 20 percent beet juice and 80 percent liquid salt brine as an “anti-icing, pre-winter storm treatment,” according to director of public services Ron Melchert.
Anoka County uses a mixture of calcium chloride and sugar cane molasses, in addition to regular road salt, county engineer Doug Fischer says. The molasses helps the road salt stick and reduces calcium chloride's corrosive qualities, he says.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Suspect in killings of wealthy D.C. family arrested
- Diplomats report progress in U.S.-Cuba talks, which will continue
- Coal’s worst fears affirmed in analysis of Obama climate plan
- Couple pleads not guilty in Kentucky bourbon thefts
- Obama reaches out to Jewish community
- 28 evacuated as fire hits oil platform off Louisiana coast
- Senate still works on NSA proposal as deadline nears
- Senate OKs fast-track trade bill sought by Obama
- Ex-Va. lawmaker plans to wed teen in sex scandal
- Calif. farmers’ group will cut water use in historic deal
- As oil production soars, so do pipeline leaks