Web Exclusive: Beet juice used to treat icy roads

Web Exclusive

(CNN/WAOW) - A highway department in Central Wisconsin is trying something unconventional that they say will help keep roads clear this winter. It involves a root vegetable.

Beet juice, like the vegetable is what highway crews in Lincoln County are using this winter. The juice is mixed magnesium chloride and traditional salt. The department's superintendent says it is more effective.

"It seems to activate significantly faster on the roadways and it seems to hold the road open longer of a long drawn out storm event," says Mike Vandeweerd, Lincoln Co. Highway dept. Superintendent.

As the temperature continues to drop, officials say the beet juice mixture will come in handy.

"The coated salt that we mixed up should be good down to about 10 below zero and still have a melting factor. Regular rock salt is good to about 10-15 degrees above zero," says Mike Vandeweerd, Lincoln Co. Highway dept. Superintendent. "With the coated salt, you'll need less salt to get the same effect on the roadways."

Drivers say they're noticing a difference. "The road is completely clear. Which is nice as a driver because there's less opportunity for bad things to happen," says Clifford O'Baker, Merrill Resident.

Clifford O'Baker lives on State Highway 64. One of the roads covered with the beet juice salt. "It's quite a bit different, the roads are clear, it makes for much better and safer travel," says Clifford O'Baker, Merrill Resident.

While O'Baker says it's an unusual concept. He says he's glad it's working and highway crews agree. "Especially if you were coming from one county that is using it to one county that is not," says Mike Vandeweerd, Lincoln Co. Highway dept. Superintendent.

Even though the beet juice costs more, the highway superintendent says the department is still within the budget. Meaning they'll continue to use this new mixture all winter long. Officials say the beet juice doesn't smell bad or leave any stains. The DNR says there are no environmental concerns with the beet juice.


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