Just a day after summer came to a close, the city of Moline, Iowa., was preparing for the possibility of a brutal winter and slippery streets.
Mike Bartels, Moline's municipal services operation manager, said this year, as in previous years, the city will treat its road salt with a sugarbeet molasses product that more and more municipalities are using these days.
"This is the first time using their product," he said, referring to Smith Fertilizer and Grain of Knoxville, Iowa. "But we have treated our salt with (the mixture) for several years. We've always used the beet product. It may be different, but it is basically the same stuff. We went with the low bid out of three.
Bartels said some municipalities use a product made from corn sugar.
Smith Fertilizer owner Max Smith said his company just last week was officially licensed to create and sell a more environmentally friendly version of the sugarbeet product. It was spraying Moline's 3,200 tons of salt Sept. 23 with the solution.
"It's a new product, and Moline is the first municipality in North America to use it," Smith said. "The process has been approved by the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters."
The Pacific Northwest Snowfighters is an association of transportation agencies dedicated to ensuring the safety of winter maintenance products. The group established procedures for testing deicing and anti-icing chemicals and maintains specifications that products must meet to be considered for widespread use.
Smith said his product is called BEET 55. He said it is a natural organic product made from sugarbeet molasses blended with salt brine. He said it reduces the effect of corrosion by 57 percent and lowers the freeze point from 15 degrees to minus 12 degrees. He said his product also improves the longevity of the product's lifespan on the roadway by two to three days.
Smith said his company has been working about five years on improving the product to meet the standards set by the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters.
Moline is not the only Quad-City municipality to use a sugarbeet product.
"We do use the sugarbeet solution," said Mike Clarke, public works director for the city of Davenport. "It is very effective at bringing the temperature down of what the freeze point is. We have been using it for two years."
Smith said sugarbeets are the source of sugar. After the sugar is extracted, a carbohydrate is removed.
"It is that product that interacts with salt and chloride products," he said. "You can use about 50 percent less salt products for the road and chloride load with this product."
Smith used an analogy of using molasses to make popcorn balls. When the sticky liquid is add to rock salt, it limits the amount that bounces off the street and onto the side of the road.
"That is what we call the bounce effort," Smith said. "They said 70 percent of rock blows off the highway the first semi that drives by. This takes the bounce away from it."
Davenport ice melt manufacturer Ossian Inc. announced three years ago that it was awarded a patent on a product that is considered a major breakthrough for municipalities in the U.S. snowbelt. Mike Ossian, whose father, Ken, bought the Davenport business 39 years ago, said the new product, called Fusion, is huge in his business. He called it a degraded sugarbeet-based de-icer used in a variety of liquid formulations for de-icing roads and sidewalks.
Bartels said the sugarbeet product has worked well for years.
"And you are saving material," he said. "You also are saving labor and fuel costs by not having to add additional material."