Of course, I checked to see what others have said and it turns out this isn't really new news. This is from a 2008 USA Today piece
By Terry Kinney, Associated Press Writer
CINCINNATI — A concoction of beet juice and salt that is kinder to concrete and metal is getting mostly favorable reviews from a growing number of states and cities looking for more effective ways to treat ice- and snow-covered roads.It works by lowering the freezing temperature of the brine that's used to pretreat roads, experts say. And it's made from a waste product that was dumped down the drain before this new use was discovered.Road crews learned long ago that pretreating highways with brine before a storm helps prevent the accumulation of snow and ice. Then they learned that adding beet juice to the brine could make the treatment effective at lower temperatures.A commercial product called Geomelt uses the beet juice that's left after sugar has been extracted from sugar beets. The Ohio Department of Transportation is testing it in 11 counties, spokesman Scott Varner said Wednesday."Rock salt alone stops melting snow at about 18 degrees; Geomelt goes to 20 below," Varner said. . . .
They use it in North Dakota where they grow sugar beets. In Wisconsin they use cheese. A report out of Chicago the other day:
Many places around the country are mixing up strange de-icing concoctions, adding things like cheese brine, molasses, and potatoes.
Here in North Dakota beet juice is the not-so-secret ingredient. . .
Of course, beet juice is abundant locally, with North Dakota's robust sugar beet industry.
Other places use the same concept, for example, in Milwaukee they use cheese brine leftover from cheese making. [cheese link added]Potatoes? We grow potatoes well in Alaska. Does it make more sense to use them to clear the roads or to eat them? And will beet or potato residue attract moose to the roads?
The Daily Iowan reported in Dec. 2011:
Hold on though. Is this just manufacturer hype that the media have eaten up uncritically? Have the states who use this stuff done scientific tests or are they using just anecdotal evidence to justify their expenditures on these products?Effectiveness is without a doubt the most important, because human lives are the primary beneficiary. Cost is also to be considered — many municipalities, especially Iowa City, continually face crippling budget restraints. The third principal factor is the environmental impact of a given substance. For instance, road salt often makes its way into urban and other waterways, compromising drinking water and wildlife — not even to mention the detrimental effects of salt-mining.One natural substance can make the substances we use more powerful, more cost-effective, and more sustainable: sugar beet juice. Both the University of Iowa and Iowa City recognized the advantages of beet-juice formula — often marketed as either ProMelt (pre-mixed) or GeoMelt (unmixed) — and use it to secure our streets."We're on our third season using GeoMelt," said John Sobaski, Iowa City's assistant superintendent for streets and traffic engineering. "We receive 1,500 of the 3,000 tons, and we treated that 1,500 tons right here on site. It doesn't take much to coat it, and we have a two- to three-day residual effect on the pavement. It does reduce corrosion, as well, and keeps the stockpile flowing nicely."At a cost of $10 per ton, it's been very cost-effective and beneficial."
A report by the Western Transportation Institute at the University of Montana for the State of Minnesota is not as effusive about the benefits of agricultural by-products (ABPs).
Additives such as agricultural by-products (ABP s) or organic by-product enhancers are also blended with these primary chemicals to improve their performances in snow and ice control. Known additives are corn syrup, corn steeps, and other corn derivatives; beet juice-sugared or de-sugared; lignin/lignosulfonate ; molasses (usually from sugar cane); brewers/distillers by- product; and glycerin. A variety of agro-based chemicals are being used either alone or as additives for other winter maintenance chemicals (73). Agro-based additives increase cost but may provide enhanced ice-melting capacity, reduce the deicer corrosiveness, and/or last longer than standard chemicals when applied on roads ( 74). Furthermore, agro-based additives utilize renewable resources and have low environmental impact. Alkoka and Kandil examined a deicing product named Magic, which was a blend of ABPs and liquid MgCl 2 ( 75 ). The working temperature of the product was found to be down to -20ºF. Pesti and Liu evaluated the use of salt brine and liquid corn salt on Nebraska highways and found liquid corn salt to be more cost- effective because it achieved bare pavement conditions quicker than salt brine and contributed to more significant road user savings (76). Fu conducted field testing in the City of Burlington, Canada of two different beet molasses based mate rials (30% beet juice + 70% salt brine) and regular salt brine (23% NaCl) us ed as pre-wetting and anti-icing agents over nine snow events. The results indicated organic materials for pre-wetting under low temperatures did not perform significantly better. With a higher cost than regular brine, organic materials can reduce the amount of chlorides released into the environment. However, the results from this study are limited to the application rates and the observe d winter conditions (77) . The Swedish National Road and Transport Institute evaluated the fricti on characteristics of three types of mixtures. A brine made with 30% sugar beet flour used to pre-wet salt resulted in no significant friction improvement. Longer term performance was observed with sand mixed with hot water (78). Fay and Shi (19) developed a systematic approach to assist maintenance agencies in selecting or formulating their deicers, which integrates the information available pertinent to various aspects of deicers and incorporates agency priorities.This post deserves a lot more research. But I don't think I need to research everything. I see one of my jobs as finding interesting possibilities and also asking questions and this issue seems relevant to Alaska.