A new bill introduced in the State House would pair organic additives, like sugar beet juice, with road salt to control icy streets during the winter months.
Each winter, when the ice and snow fall so does the road salt.
But the cost of those clear roads is felt year-round with potholes and corroded car parts.
State lawmakers are looking to ease that burden with a new program that would combine sugar beets and road salt into a mixture to keep the roads clear without damaging them.
“What it actually is, we call it beet juice. But it’s desugarized beet molasses,” said John Boothroyd, manager of government relations for the Michigan Sugar Company.
Boothroyd said this new bill is part of a pilot program that will hopefully improve salt’s effectiveness in cold weather, while also being more environmentally conscious.
“Salt can get into the water and it’s bad for the water quality and fish and wildlife, but it’s also an infrastructure issue. Salt can deteriorate the roads and can cause rust on cars. The beet juice doesn’t do that,” Boothroyd said.
In Midland County, the road commission uses mineral brine to treat the roads during the winter time.
“We would look into that certainly,” said Terry Palmer, managing director for the Midland County Road Commission.
Palmer said the use of mineral brine not only lowers their amount of road salt, but is an effective way to debond ice from pavement.
He said the use of alternative methods are never out of the question.
“Anytime you can reduce the salt usage by using other products and doing it in an economic way that makes sense,” Palmer said.
As for the cost of using organic additives, Boothroyd said that’s something they’ve taken into account as well.
“Depending on the product, it can be more expensive. But the municipalities I’ve talked to have saved money because they’re using less salt. They have to spread it less. So they’re decreasing their manhours and their overall purchasing,” Boothroyd said.
Bay City Democrat Brian Elder introduced the bill this week. The bill is still in the beginning phases and must be passed by both the House and Senate.