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Home / Environment / Milwaukee’s latest de-icing strategy: Cheese brine

Milwaukee’s latest de-icing strategy: Cheese brine

Some county highway maintenance budgets have been thrown into disarray after heavy snow at the start of the year, as well as the uncertainty of what Mother Nature has in store for the remainder of 2011.  (Staff file photo by Kevin Harnack)

A truck is dwarfed by a large mound of salt at the North American Salt Co. facility in Milwaukee in 2011. The city is considering using cheese brine to help de-ice city streets this winter. (Fle photo by Kevin Harnack)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — It’s a road Milwaukee’s been down before: What can the Department of Public Works add to rock salt to help de-ice streets in the winter?

While rock salt is plentiful and inexpensive, some have raised concerns about its long-term effects on roads and the environment. So, this winter, crews will sprinkle in a little cheese brine, the liquid waste product left over in the cheesemaking process. The only downside, the city says, is its distinctive odor.

Milwaukee has experimented with alternative de-icing products before, such as beet juice in 2009, which when mixed with salt in the city’s trucks turned into something resembling oatmeal, the Journal Sentinel reported. The city has also used a molasses-type product in the past, but residents complained they were tracking the sticky stuff into their homes.

Polk County, in far western Wisconsin, has used cheese brine since 2009. Officials there say salt trucks spread 30 percent less road salt when using the cheese brine mixture. They also said using the cheese byproduct saved $40,000 in 2009-2010.

The county’s brine is supplied by F & A Dairy, which otherwise would have to find another way of disposing of the waste.

Milwaukee is looking for a mozzarella or provolone cheese brine supplier in the area. The closest cheese plants to Milwaukee are in Richfield, West Bend and Bristol, according to a city report.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

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One comment

  1. Another possible negative effect of cheese brine is that besides having essentially the same toxic effects of chloride or salt on rivers (which is where all the salty snow eventually goes to), which can be either acutely or chronically toxic for aquatic life, is that cheese brine also has a lot of organic matter that when put into the stream requires bacteria to break it down. This causes something called biological oxygen demand, and essentially can zap oxygen out of the water. This is a doubly whammy for water quality. We have seen no research that states that cheese brine is better for water quality. So it might be cheaper for the city, but it will likely increase environmental impacts to our local rivers. The only way to reduce chloride (and its impacts to the environment) is to more efficiently meter, measure, and minimize its use, and to change local perceptions of what the roads should be like during winter months (some of our application rates are 8 times the state average). Many cities, such as Brookfield and Wauwatosa, have drastically reduced salt use with little to no effects to driver safety.

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