The City of Merritt has a new weapon in its battery of road de-icers.
"We just call it beet juice," said Shawn Boven, public works manager with the City of Merritt. "This is our first season using it."
VSA Road Maintenance, which is based in Merritt and services the Coquihalla Highway, brings in the juice and supplied it to the city this season.
VSA has been using the material for the past three years and it's already widely used across Canada and in the northern U.S. The juice is contained in tanks that fit in the back of a pickup truck. One tank is capable of treating 20 kilometres of road.
Beet juice is used for two purposes - pre-treating the road surface before ice forms and extending the effectiveness of the salt brine commonly used for de-icing. It prevents ice from bonding to pavement and makes ice and snow removal easier.
"It acts in combination with salt brine and lowers the effective temperature," Boven said.
Instead of working to a temperature of -5 C, the combination is effective to as cold as -10 or -12, a critical advantage in the southern Interior.
By extending the thermal range of de-icing, beet juice has reduced the city's use of sand and salt on the roads. It is a little more expensive than conventional de-icers such as calcium chloride, but there will be savings as well in cleanup costs come spring. There won't be as much sand to sweep up.
"Salt's not the ideal thing for the environment," Boven said, noting its corrosive effect on vehicles and the staining pedestrians experience.
The de-sugared molasses has so far proven to be a worthwhile investment.
"It's extremely valuable, especially when it's applied ahead of a storm."
The City of Kamloops hasn't used the juice, but public works is interested in learning of Merritt's experience, said Dennis Luison, City street supervisor.
© Kamloops Daily News