Waukesha County battles icy roads with beet juice

Mixture more effective than salt in low temps

Southeast Wisconsin has been getting smacked with snowstorm after snowstorm over the past few weeks, but Waukesha officials have found a unique way to keep their roads clear.

It’s called geo melt — better known as beet juice. The compound is made at Waukesha’s DPW Fleet Maintenance Shop off and supplied to sub-substations.

Already two thousand gallons of beet juice were mixed with the salt brine this weekend to help protect drivers in Waukesha. 

 To help deal with the dwindling supply of salt to treat icy roads, counties like Waukesha are using the alternative mixture, which  is more effect when temperatures dip below 10 degrees.

“Today you need it, otherwise, salt is very ineffective below 10,” Terry Fintel said. The repeated weekend snowstorms have kept Fintel at the fleet shop for three weeks straight.

Fintel is in charge of the brine marker, and has been making batches of the beet juice mix — 90 percent salt brine, 10 percent beet juice and 5 percent calcium chloride.

“What it really is is sugar beets. And really, if you think about a can of soda, it’s sugar. It sort of won’t freeze until the 20s and when it does, it turns slushy. When you add sugar beets to salt water, it will keep the snow from packing together,” Fintel said.

With temperatures taking a dip to 0 degrees, Waukesha drivers know the sugary substance makes a difference on the roads.  

The mixture is also sticky, which helps prevent salt rocks from bouncing off the roads.
More importantly, it helps melt the ice. 

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