Hitting The Road: Brine, Beets & Other Thanksgiving Treats

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Chances are, there will be a lot of talk of brine this week. While most people will talk about brining the turkey, snow managers and landscapers see brine in a different light.

Brine is used to treat roads in advance of winter storms. It is a mixture of water and salt that has a third ingredient to make it stick to the road surface. It is now a humorous and interesting reflection of the geographical area it is used. Brine recipes now include all kinds of food industry byproducts in an effort to find cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives. Some of these may be on Thursday’s tables.

Reports of brine recipes since 2014 have included wine-making byproduct in Argentina; cheese byproducts in Wisconsin; potatoes in Tennessee; pickle juice in New Jersey; molasses in Maine and New Hampshire; and beet juice in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, and North Dakota. It seems that beet juice has shown the greatest “sticking power” over the years.

In Washington, D.C., this year’s District Snow Team consists of 882 employees, a 296-vehicle fleet (including 120 heavy plows, 100 light plows, and 46 100% biodiesel plows), 42,000 tons of salt, 86,000 gallons of brine and… 10,500 gallons of raw beet juice. (According to a 2015 article in the Washington Post, the recipe involves 23% salt, 62% water, and 15% beet juice. The 2014/15 winter required 25,000 gallons of beet juice, a budget item around $40,000. The Washington DPW is also involved in a pilot project to assess calcium magnesium acetate (a substitute for salt) as a way to protect aquatic life and infrastructure.

Mayor Bowser made protecting the environment a priority in his city,” stated Tommy Wells, Director of DOWW. “I appreciate the partnership between my agency and DPW to test new environmentally-friendly approaches to keep our roads safe this winter while protecting our waterways

Here are some interesting facts about beets from the Missouri Department of Transportation.

  • The sugar beet can be used to make table sugar and feed cattle.
  • The product we use comes from the table sugar production process. It is a byproduct of the fermentation process that removes sugar crystals and leaves behind the juice.

  • Beet juice has been shown to reduce the corrosive effects of salt used on roads.
  • Beet juice cost is relatively the same as calcium at $1.70-$1. 85 per gallon.
  • We use a mixture of 80% salt brine and 20% beet juice in most areas.
  • Beet juice or salt brine can be used at temperatures close to zero. However, we can theoretically get a lower temperature before freezing.
  • We store around 30,000 gallons of beet juice/brine mix to be used at a moment’s notice.
  • To melt ice, beet juice needs salt brine.

  • At 30@, one pound of salt will melt 46.3 pounds of ice, but at 0@ the same pound of salt will melt just 3.7 pounds of ice.
  • Regular water-based salt brine works well until 25@.
  • Beet juice is added to the mix between 25@ and 5@.
  • Calcium chloride is added to the mix between 5@ and -10@.To see more article from Plow(r), click here.
  • Christine Menapace
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