Recent snows highlight need for alternatives to snow removal

It happens every year. We may find out about it days in advance, yet no one can do anything to stop it. Snow. And some of the pearly white snowflakes that fall so gracefully from the heavens end up on our roads. Then all chaos breaks loose.

The benign roads suddenly become icy death traps and only the superheroes from Cedar Falls Snow Removal can save us from our doom. However, like the little old lady that swallowed a fly, the cure for our ills may be a poisonous spider that poses the greater threat.

The main defenses against icy roadway Cedar Falls uses are salt and shovelling. Trucks douse the roads in sodium chloride before a big storm. Salt is highly corrosive. It damages roads, cars and the environment. Salt contamination can damage plants and remove the nutrients they need from the soil, a major concern for Iowa farmland.

Salt often has additives such as sodium ferrocyanide, and chromates can stop the corrosion, however, when dissolved in water, they form cyanide and chromium ions, becoming toxic to aquatic life. The sand, garbage, oil and possibly animal carcasses collected from the roads along with shoveled snow do not help anything either. Although no one can stop most of these issues without eliminating litter and cars, which is highly unlikely, there is a more environmentally-safe method of melting snow: beet juice.

Beet juice works similarly to salt for melting snow, except better. It uses the same chemical reaction to lower the freezing point of water as salt, but does not stop there. When sprayed on snow, beet juice turns a brownish color, which helps it absorb heat and essentially melt faster. It is also an organic method of snow removal and not harmful to the environment.

Many communities are already using beet juice for snow removal instead of salt. The only problem about beet juice is the price. One gallon costs $1.80 while the average gallon of salt brine only costs 12 cents. One way to help the environment without the financial damage is to use a mixture of salt and beet juice to treat icy roads.

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