Road salt shortages have plagued states from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New York and Kansas. Pennsylvania has used 200,000 more pounds of salt than they do during a normal winter. Kansas has used 70 percent of its supply and New York City had to ask for help from the state of New York to fix their salt shortage problem. The road salt shortage is being helped by red juice that comes from a beet. Beet juice is being used by some states as an alternative to road salt. K-Tech Specialty Coatings in Kansas is using Beet Heet, which is a mixture made with sugar beets and molasses. The mixture helps with the shortage by increasing the salt’s melting rate when the sugar beets and molasses are mixed.
According to the distributors that sell Beet Heet, the mixture helps the salt melt the snow below the 15 degree limit. It also helps municipalities melt more ice and quickly get rid of the snow. The sticky solution also keeps salt rocks from bouncing off the road. Denver Preston, who works for Beet Heet, said that agencies now trust them and that they have been happily surprised by how well the solution works. Preston reports that the sales for the salt solution might be at 100 percent by the end of the season. The company has increased their sale from last season. Last winter they sold about 900,000 gallons and this season they sold 1.5 million gallons so far.
Two areas in Canada are using another beet alternative called Beet 55, which is a mix of saline and beet juice. Williams Lake, a town in British Columbia, is using the red juice as an alternative so they can cut down on using sand and salt. The town has used over 9,000 gallons of the mixture already. Kevin Goldfuss, the director of municipal services, said that they put 33.000 liters down before Christmas and that he is very pleased with the difference. The smell is better than other solutions such as cheese brine and Goldfuss says that the mixture smells sweet like a Tootsie roll. The beet juice is not only good for municipalities but also good for the environment. Road salt can damage cars, roads and destroy vegetation. The sand and salt can clog water treatment plants and damage certain species. Todd Royer, an associate professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said that the species is venerable to death because of the road salt runoff. Royer also said that it can affect fish but that they are more interested in invertebrate and insects. Invertebrates are more sensitive to chloride than fish. Beet juice is a safe alternative that some areas are using instead of salt or sand. Kansas is using Beet Heet to melt ice and areas in Canada are using Beet 55 to get rid of ice. The road salt is worse for the environment than the beet mixtures. It can damage roads and endanger invertebrates. The beet mixtures do not melt the ice because the carbohydrates in beets stop the ice from binding to the road. Some states use cheese brine instead of red beet juice and sugar beets. The cheese does not freeze until it hits 21 degrees and also stops the salt from bouncing off the roads. No matter which type of beet alternative is chosen, municipalities know that beets can help by getting them past the salt shortage. By Jordan Bonte Sources: TIME TreeHugger Grist WISHTV