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Just Beet It, Beet It

By Margaret Lyons in News on Mar 13, 2008 5:36PM

Sand, kitty litter, salt and...beet juice? Yes, there's another product in the de-icing repertoire these days, and it comes from sugar beets.

A sugar beet–juice byproduct known as Geomelt gets mixed with a city's salt supply both to decrease the amount of rock salt needed to de-ice roadways and to make the salt effective at lower temperatures. Generally, rock salt alone will melt ice up to about 20°F, but the combo of rock salt and beet product works all the way to -20°F.

Too much salt on the roads is bad for the environment, so using less salt per snowstorm would be great--except that Geomelt is pretty expensive. And it leaves a "coffee-colored" liquid it its melting wake. That's why the IDOT doesn't use it, but Streets and San is into it.

"It's been very promising," said Chicago Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith, adding it was tested on bridge decks, overpasses and sections of Lake Shore Drive. "It doesn't replace salt, but it does reduce the amount of salt we need."

The juice was also a big hit in DuPage County and in several cities in Ohio, including Cincinnati and Akron. [Trib, USA Today, image of ice rocks on the road by Ten-Nine]