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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Beet Juice, Ice melt, and Fish That Swim in Marinade. are brutal where I live and the cold climate can affect the safety of our roads and sidewalks by making these surfaces slippery. Recently, a by law was passed making it mandatory for drivers to install winter tires on their cars by December 15 of every year. The fines for not doing so are very high. As an additional precaution, anytime we experience freezing rain or snow, all walking and driving surfaces are treated with an ice melt product to prevent accidents and injury. The mixture in the de icer usually includes sand, gravel, and copious amounts of salt. In the Province of Quebec, 1.7 million tons of salt are used every year on provincial roads. The city of Montréal alone uses 33, 000 tons. That quantity of sodium, spread annually on road surfaces across North America, could not have left our eco-system untouched. Only recently has it become apparent that an environmental problem was created by using so much salt.

Scientists at the University of Toronto report that road salt leads to an increase in the levels of salinity of inland waterways that run along highways. They conclude that such bodies of water have become as salty as oceans. Groundwater creeks that surround treated highways are similarly affected. Consequently, in some areas, there are no longer any young fish, or fewer fish, or no fish at all.

Over the last six years, Environment Canada, a government agency similar to the EPA in the USA, has been encouraging municipalities to decrease the amount of road salt that they use. Some officials believe that reducing the saline concentration in the de icing products by only 10% would be considered a significant accomplishment. As a result of such guidlines, and with the added expectation that road maintenence cost might be lowered by reducing salt consumption, many local governments across North America have already begun to moderate their use of salt by adding beet juice to traditional ice melt. innovative mixture had its beginnings at a Michigan based sugar production plant, where sugar beets are converted into sugar. There, an employee discovered that a by-product of the process, sugar beet juice, doesn’t freeze well until temperatures drop to below -30 degrees Fahrenheit. That behavior makes it an ideal additive for ice melt mixtures. When salt is dampened by the juice it becomes sticky and does not ricochet off the road. As a result, less salt per foot is required in order to keep the roads safe, less sodium seeps into the water table, and road maintenance costs are lowered.

Unlike its well known cousin, the easily staining purple beet, sugar beet is brown and does not stain cars. However, pavements on which it is used might become darker, salt stains on boots will look beige rather than white, and the resulting slush from melting ice will take on a brown tinge. In warmer weather, the aroma of melting snow might resemble that of soy sauce, molasses or stale coffee. In all, none of these properties are very serious considering that the product contributes, in some small measure, to preserving the ecological integrity of the environment.

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Reader Comments (5)

THat's awesome! I'm sure my dog would love it, it hurts him to walk on the salt.

I sure wish the Gov't of Ontario would allow us to use studded tires like the other provinces do :(

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Very interesting Allan. Our village has cut way down on salt usage, much to our dismay, and switched to sand. Last year, we were sliding all over the place. Even with four wheel drive it was a problem when trying to stop on steep inclines.

This would certainly be a better solution and we are so close to Michigan, wonder if they have looked into it.


December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

This is very awesome. I hate all the salt that gets used year after year, its good to know of the alternatives.

December 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

We have dog. Cal. chlor. and salt, in sufficient quantities to deal with ice here, tend to burn the dogs feet. We are also concerned about the dogs and other animals tendency to lick anything salty, which can cause health problems when we use the cal. chlor.

Are you aware of a consumer version of the beet mixture available? I have looked around and not spotted any... yet.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat

I haven't seen one either.

February 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

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