Cowansville, Que., estimates it will use 30 per cent less salt this year as a result of move to beets

The town of Cowansville, Que., is taking a slightly different approach when it comes to salting icy roads this season.

In an effort to reduce its ecological footprint, the municipality in the Eastern Townships has added a little beet juice into the mix, which is meant to save money and protect the environment.

“The beet juice is sprayed directly on the salt,” said Sylvain Perreault, infrastructure superintendent for the town.

“A portion of the beet is given to the animals. The rest is used to deglaze roads.”

By mixing beet juice with ordinary road salt, the municipality uses less salt overall and minimizes its environmental impact.

The sticky mixture keeps salt on the roads, which reduces run-off. It has also proven effective in the United States at helping rock salt melt ice below its –9 C limit.

When sprayed before a storm, a thin layer of beet juice will keep the ice from bonding with the road surface. It is, moreover, less corrosive than other salt-chemical mixtures.

Veggie power

Transports Québec has been using the product on a stretch of Highway 20 in the Lower Saint Lawrence since 2010, when it initiated a pilot project. Other towns have used beet juice, too, including the village of Matagami, 800 kilometres north of Montreal.

Last year, the City of Laval introduced a pilot project involving the extract of white beets in an effort to cut down on the cost of snow removal services and make them more environmentally friendly.

In total, Cowansville estimates it will use 30 per cent less salt this year as a result of the new method.

The project cost about $20,000 to install the necessary equipment, an investment that they expect to recover in less than two years.

“For the moment, it’s very conclusive. Especially in cold weather, we noticed a lot of positive effects, on dirt roads or gravel too,” said Perreault.