As one answer to a shortage of road salt, researchers have developed an alternative -- a liquid made from beet juice, brine and calcium chloride -- which is cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.
Alternative to Road Salt: Liquid Made from Beets
LESTER HOLT, anchor:
As record snowfalls have piled up in many parts of the country this winter, piles of road salt have been rapidly dwindling; and that's got officials scrambling for alternate ways to keep roads clear and residents on the move. Here's NBC's Kevin Tibbles.
KEVIN TIBBLES, reporting:
It's been a brutal winter with double the average snowfall in many places, and that's left dozens of communities from Maine to Wisconsin in search of the one ingredient they need this time of year more than ever: salt.
Mr. JEFF FIDDLER (Racine, Wisconsin Department of Public Works): Every community probably in the state is looking for salt. So they're trying to dole it out, give everybody a little bit and keep everybody going.
TIBBLES: In 2006, according to the Salt Institute, municipalities spent more than $300 million to spread some 12 million tons of it. This year that figure is expected to be much higher, sapping valuable dollars from towns and businesses already struggling.
Mr. JIM TENBRINK (Earth Service and Supply): I had a guy call me that said a competitor of his bought some salt in at $125 a ton. We couldn't sell salt to these guys for $45 bucks a ton in October.
TIBBLES: But some places have found a solution for the salt shortage, one that melts snow from the the street and even smells sweet. It comes from the beet. In Beloit, Wisconsin, they are using a blend of brine, calcium chloride and beet juice. It's called Geomelt and they say it works.
Ms. CHRISTINE WALSH (Beloit, Wisconsin, Department of Public Works): If a sugar was put with a salt, it would create a synergy, and that is important because that allows that salt to speed up...
TIBBLES: The beet juice concoction also stays on the ground longer, up to seven days. That saves the time, energy and expense of having to repeat applications each time it snows. It also melts at temperatures as cold as 30 below zero, which is better than salt alone. And there's a further green benefit.
Ms. WALSH: It is good for the environment, which means we use less salt. We also have cut our budget because of it.
TIBBLES: The solution, which is more brown than beet red, is spreading; and in a pinch, helping a growing number of communities tackle their salt shortages. And drivers are saying it can't be beat. Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.
SEDALIA, Mo. — The dirty rocks of salt are packed into a storage shed on a snowy lot, where a nearby bulldozer, its engine on, stands at the ready. Pettis County Commissioner Brent Hampy trudges across the frozen ground to assess the stockpiles for this county, which just received 8 inches of snow in a nasty storm that closed schools for two days.
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