Quebec Municipalities Using Environmentally Friendly Options to Road Salt

January 24, 2018 Updated: January 25, 2018

MONTREAL—Several Quebec municipalities that want to reduce their use of rock salt are turning to beet juice or wood chips as alternative de-icing options.

Eric Westram, the mayor of Montreal-area Rosemere, says the Swiss have been using wood chips on roads in the Alps instead of salt since 2008 and “there’s no contest.”

Westram pointed out that salt is only effective to temperatures as low as -15 C, while wood chips are good to about -30 C. He said the chips are mixed with magnesium chloride, which helps them stick to the ground.

Westram added the product is applied with the same equipment that’s used for salting and sanding, but that it doesn’t cause oxidation or damage to the metal machinery.

“I think we found something that has a future,” he said. “We used it [Jan. 23] on a street where the slope is really steep and it’s like there was no ice.”

Fanny Poisson, a spokeswoman for Cowansville, about 90 kilometres southeast of Montreal, says the town has opted for a mixture of beet juice and salt for a second winter in a row.

It has only been applied for the past couple of weeks this year due to some equipment trouble, she said.

“It’s beet juice mixed with salt, so it permits us to reduce the amount of salt we use,” Poisson said.” It adds certain properties to the salt to give it a more adherent quality and is also better for the environment.”

Poisson says other municipalities have tried it as well as Quebec’s Transport Department, which has used it on certain provincial highways.

Westram, meanwhile, said his town briefly tried the beet juice concoction several years ago, but stopped using it because it stained everything.

“It will stain your shoes, it will stain the bottom of your pants, it will stain the equipment, it will stain the cars—it’s something that basically is very hard to remove.”

In the United States, there have been reports of cheese brine, pickle brine, and potato juice having been tested as de-icers.

Statistics Canada says some environmental contamination risks of road salt are increased salinity of soils, damage to vegetation, contamination of ground and surface water, and fish mortality.

From The Canadian Press