Beet Juice in My Road Salt?


This has been a harsh winter. Many days below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Lots of dead car batteries. Large piles of snow remain. The Great Lakes are covered with more ice than we have seen for decades. Potholes appear at an alarming rate. People will probably stop complaining about mild winters for a while I presume.

As we prepare for more snow tonight, this reminds me of a question on beet juice. I was asked by a few people, why is beet juice added to road salt. Others have asked about the product, geo-melt which contains beet juice.

Many towns are running low on road salt, while other towns are concerned about the harmful effects of salt accumulating in soil and waterways. Beet juice is currently used as a supplement by public works to reduce ice accumulation on roads.

Basic chemistry reminds us that salt lowers the freezing/melting temperature of ice. Ice will melt at temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit when salt is added. Therefore, salting roads before and during snowstorms is worthwhile, because it should reduce the number of collisions caused by slippery conditions. Unfortunately, salt accumulation in soil has detrimental effects on vegetation and is not favorable to aquatic organisms when it accumulates in water ways. Also, the salt increases the rate at which potholes form on our streets – the bane of our daily commutes.

Beet juice to the rescue! The beet juice is the waste product that remains after the sugar is extracted from sugar beets. I was amazed to discover that sugar beets account for 20% of the world’s sugar supply. So I think it is awesome that this waste product has a valuable application.

There are many advantages to adding beet juice to road salt. First, it reduces the amount of salt needed to treat the roads, and in turn, reduces the environmental impact of salt. Second, it appears that beet juice is more effective at lowering the freezing/melting temperature when the temperature dips under 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Salt is ineffective below 18 degrees Fahrenheit. However, beet juice is effective at minus 20 degree Fahrenheit by many reports. Third, the beet juice reduces clumping of road salt when it is spread on streets. And finally, the level of corrosion due to salt accumulation on vehicles and equipment should decrease over time.

It seems like such as good deal that it is unfortunate people are turned off because of the “green” designation. Sometimes “green” products are less effective than their commercial counterparts, but people do not find it worthwhile to make sacrifices in the name of the environment. In this case, beet juice lessens the environmental impact and is more effective. In case you are wondering, the grounds crew at Lewis University uses beet juice on the paths and roads.

About Dr. Jerry Kavouras

Dr. Jerry Kavouras is Associate Professor and Chair of Biology at Lewis University. He can be found on LinkedIn as well.

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