Has the polar vortex hit your city yet? In Indiana, the dangerous cold and ice has led officials to temporarily outlaw driving and New York declared a state of emergency.
Transportation difficulties are the worst part of a winter storm. When roads are too icy or covered in snow, people can't get to work and school, businesses can't open, local government can't operate, and perhaps most alarmingly, delivery trucks can't replenish grocery store shelves.
To prevent this winter storm from bringing city operations to their knees, some clever public works employees in Wisconsin (where else?) launched a pilot program that uses cheese to prevent roads from freezing. In a state that's got more than enough cheese brine to spare, the program advocates mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt as a cheaper, less toxic form of road de-icing treatment.
And Wisconsin isn't the only state looking for a more environmentally-friendly way to fight the effects of the next vicious winter storm. In Illinois, municipal officials are using beet juice to de-ice the roads faster and keep them clear longer.
"Beet juice is an effective alternative to salt alone because it lowers the freezing point of water to as low as -20 degrees," explains a press release from The Morton Arboretum, an internationally recognized outdoor tree museum in Illinois. "Salt only prevents water from freezing at temperatures of 5 degrees or higher. Salt also bounces from the roads; adding beet juice lowers the bounce rate from 30 percent to 5 percent, reducing the amount of salt used on the roads." With the new product, called Ice Bite, the Arboretum claims to use nine times less salt, saving nearly $14,000 in material costs.
Although it does dispel ice during a winter storm, rock salt is a harmful de-icing agent that damages cars and roads in addition to soil, plants, trees, and even our water supply. Officials in both Wisconsin and Illinois hope that their alternatives will be successful, and picked up by cities across the nation.
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