Beet juice for road salting

Beet/salt mix keeps roads dry, could make a profit
By Tara García Mathewson

beet juice

The City of Elgin uses specialized road salting trucks to spread a mixture of salt brine, beet juice and calcium chloride. Photo by Christopher Hankins.

Mix some sugar beet with a bit of ingenuity and you’ll find a recipe for suburbs to save on keeping your roads from getting too slick in winter weather, while being kind to Mother Nature and perhaps making some profits down the road.

At least that’s the recipe being used by the City of Elgin this season, as it tries to find a way around using its usual 20 million pounds of road salt.

A product the city used to buy, but now makes, has the potential to reduce that amount of salt used by up to 30 percent — close to 7 million pounds a year.

But Elgin isn’t stopping at savings on salt and the cost of the product. There are plans to go one step further and turn the savings into future revenue. The secret: the sugar beet.

The product, a mix of salt brine, sugar beet juice and calcium chloride, originally came out of McHenry County. The county’s maintenance superintendent, Mark DeVries, came up with the mix and the winning ratio in 2001. Now what he calls SuperMix is changing the way municipalities deal with snow all over the country and throughout the world.

DuPage and Lake counties use the mix, as do Arlington Heights, Gurnee and Libertyville. With its genesis in northern Illinois, the beet mixture has especially caught on in the Midwest.

“It’s not magic,” DeVries said. “But it has some benefits.”

After buying the mix for four years, Elgin invested this year in equipment to produce it in-house, saving $1.65 per gallon, Public Services Director David Lawry said.

Saving $75,000 per season is a start, but City Manager Sean Stegall said there also are plans to sell the mix to other municipalities or even private entities.

Read the full story and watch the accompanying video here.

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