This winter is making for a busier than normal January at the Marathon County Highway Department. Extreme cold temperatures and regular snow fall are forcing them to get a little creative with what they're spreading on the roads.
Marathon County is only one of many departments in the state brewing up a new salt concoction to help keep the roads safe. The mix is comprised of salt, Magnesium Chloride and... beet juice.
Organic additives like the beet juice and cheese brines make the rock salt the highway department traditionally spreads work better by helping the salt stick to the roads longer and melting ice at lower temperatures.
Milwaukee County mixes their salt with cheese brine. Marathon County Highway Department operations superintendent Dan Raczkowski says really isn't that far out there if you think about it.
“It's really no different as far as making the salt work any faster,” Explains Raczkowki. “You still want your salt brine mixed at a 23 percent solution. So if we were going to get our hands on some salt brine, or some cheese brine...we would still have to make sure that we've got it at the right salt percentage."
He says the county has reached out to some local cheese companies to see about trying their brines on the roads. But there is a small problem.
"The big issue is in the summer time. They produce it all year round so the issue is we really don't have the storage tanks where we would be able to store it in the summer."
And while it may save the county some money, Raczkowski jokes it would pretty ripe come June or July.
And just in case you were wondering, Mozzarella and provolone cheese brines seem to be preferred since they have the best salt content.
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