Cities consider switching from corrosive salt to natural beet juice for de-icing roads

Friday, February 14, 2014 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: beet juice, de-icing roads, corrosive salt

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(NaturalNews) It would seem as though they are better suited for filling a lunch plate than being spread all over our roads. But beets, and particularly beet juice, are proving to be a highly effective alternative to pollutive salt rocks for de-icing roads in colder areas, which is why many cities are now considering making the switch from applying salt alone to potentially flooding the streets with shimmering beet brine.

In Indiana, officials from the Fort Wayne Public Works Department are convinced that beet juice will help clear the streets that salt shortages have left untouched and coated in ice. WANE, a local CBS affiliate, reports that, even though the city has about 3,000 tons of salt available in three separate storage bins for handling icy roads, this stockpile is not enough.

A lack of available salt, not to mention a lack of funding to purchase more salt from elsewhere, has left a major deficit in Fort Wayne, as recent snow storms and cold spells consumed much of the stockpile. This, and the fact that salt alone does not melt ice very well below temperatures of between 15 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 to -4 degrees Celsius) is creating problems for which beet juice could provide solutions.

"We're ... looking at alternate sources of possibly trying out some type of other operations like beet juice or things like that to use on the main roads," stated public works department spokesman Franks Suarez to WANE, adding that a mixture of both beet juice and salt can help mitigate icy patches of road that would otherwise remain intact during ice shortages.

Beet juice works better than salt alone at melting ice during extreme temperature lows

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has already begun applying experimental beet juice to its roads, according to Harsh winters there have rendered salt alone ineffective, so officials are testing the ability of beet juice mixed with reduced levels of salt to de-ice roads in sub-zero temperatures.

"Typically, road salt loses much of its effectiveness when temperatures drop below 20 degrees," writes Mike Frassinelli for, relating what he was told by PennDOT officials. "But the beet juice, when supplemented with the salt, can burn through the ice even at sub-zero temperatures."

Information provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) on its website confirms this, explaining that beet juice mixed with salt brine, or what some are calling beet brine or "Beet Heat," is highly effective at melting ice during extreme temperature lows, which means that it is more effective than existing salt protocols that pollute soils and groundwater.

"The product we use is a byproduct of the process that makes the sugar for our tables," explains MoDOT, noting that beet juice actually helps lessen the corrosive properties of salt that otherwise damage roads over time. "We use a mixture of 80% salt brine and 20% beet juice in most areas."

The report also notes that salt drastically loses its efficacy when temperatures plunge too far below freezing. At 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just below freezing, one pound of salt alone is capable of melting about 46.3 pound of ice. But at zero degrees, this same amount of salt will only melt about 3.7 pounds of ice.

In Wisconsin, where dairy is king, officials are reportedly testing out cheese brine rather than beet juice, which they believe may provide similar benefits. Beginning as a pilot program in Milwaukee, the cheese brine approach, according to The New York Times, will aim to reduce costs and limit environmental pollution by applying less salt to roads.

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