Salt, brine, beet juice used to treat roads to melt ice, snow

The chemistry of melting snow

AKRON, Ohio - A lot has changed since Paul Barnett took the job as Director of Public Works for the city of Akron 17 years ago. "When I first took this job, we put salt in the back of a truck and we spread it on the road. That was essentially it."

Today things like brine, calcium chloride and beet juice are also used to melt the snow and ice. Temperature, winds speed and the type of snow make each storm different. Barnett, standing in front of an automated blending station, said they can dial in a custom mixture of brine and beet juice depending on the conditions.

"Right now we are running a 70 percent brine and 30 percent beet juice." said Barnett, "With the cold temperatures we are anticipating, we jacked up the beet juice a little bit, so there is a lot of chemistry involved, a lot of calculation on what's the optimal ratios."

In many cases, pretreating the roads with the brine mix will give them a head start once the snow starts to fall.

Barnett said the history of using beet juice to melt snow and ice is interesting. Click on the video player to listen to Barnett describes how the juice, which was once a waste product of the sugar beet industry, became one of his ingredients to keep the roads clear.

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