Snow? Just beet it! Calgary uses beet brine to clear icy streets
The City of Calgary is testing a new product made from beet brine to help clear streets of snow and ice this winter, saying it’s proven to be effective across Canada and in the United States.
“It uses sugar beet molasses mixed with a salt brine to create a product that — when it’s put down — actually sticks to the road,” Calgary roads maintenance manager Jim Fraser said. “It makes it an effective agent for snow and ice control in terms of breaking that bond that the snow has with the road.”
Fraser said the beet brine will be used all over, but mostly in areas of the downtown core including cycle tracks and pedestrian bridges.
“It works in a temperature range up to -26 C, theoretically,” he said. “I think it would be very effective up to about -20 C.”
Why bother with beet brine? Fraser said it’s proven to be less corrosive than regular road salt and communities that have tried it have indicated they needed to use less of it than regular salt mixtures, which in turn saves money.
“Salt and brine have a tendency to wash away. We’ve seen this product – with its stickiness – stay effective on the roads,” he said. “If the product sticks to the road it will continue to react to any precipitation – snow, ice – that we get.”
The beet brine’s tendency to stick to roads better means if it’s applied in anticipation of snow which then doesn’t fall until later than expected, it will still be there by the time precipitation does come.
Fraser said as part of their trial, the city has up to 90,000 litres of the product to use. It will be distributed by the city’s existing fleet of snow and ice control vehicles.
Under Calgary’s Snow and Ice Control program (SNIC), crews sand, salt and plow city streets that receive the heaviest traffic, moving on to lower-priority roads once those are clear.
The City of Calgary’s annual snow- and ice-control budget is $38 million.
Snowfall warning issued for City of Calgary
The City of Calgary is under a snowfall warning, issued by Environment Canada.
The agency says 15 to 25 centimetres of snow is expected as a Pacific low-pressure system brings heavy snow to parts of southern Alberta.
READ MORE: Snowfall warning issued for southern Alberta
Snowfall warnings are issued when snowfall accumulations of greater than 10 centimetres are forecast to fall in 12 hours or less.
Environment Canada cautions travellers will need to be ready to adjust their plans due to changing road conditions, saying rapidly accumulating snow may make travel difficult. They add the snow may cause visibility to be suddenly reduced at times.
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— With files from Doug Vaessen
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