...the slush-caked roads of the Greater Tri-state Area, that is. (Ok, that was a really cheesy, but take the puns with a grain of salt. You've been warned.)
We Polar Vortexans have been experiencing some technical difficulties lately. Unlike the proverbial perambulating pretzels, the roads are not getting a-salted, and it's a kind of a problem. Many of the hardest-hit states in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. are running low on sodium, and Quartz notes that they may have to turn to an arguably less savory solution, such as "cheese brine and other dairy waste products."
Indeed, Gizmodo picked up on Modern Farmer's report on the win-win waste disposal practice last November. The smell, apparently, is an issue (though 'tis the season for nasal congestion anyway), but it's definitely a creative whey to solve two problems at once.
Of course, cheese runoff is just one of the upcycled waste products that the National Geographic examines in their alt-de-icer round-up, which concludes with some DIY (De-Ice-Yourself, duh) tips. "You can easily try the brine or juice methods. Combine salt with molasses or beet juice from your grocery store, or that green liquid in pickle jars. Mix it all up, pour it into a spray bottle, and spray away. If all goes well, you will achieve maximum meltage with minimal salt."
Lo and behold, the folks across the Hudson had turned to last of those options, so to speak, some three years ago. As early as 2011, certain municipalities in northern New Jersey were substituting in "a briny mixture of salt and water that resembles pickle juice" for NaCl (a recipe for dis-ice-ter, if you will). At seven cents a gallon, it's difficult to determine how much money they'll save on $63/ton salt, not least because it's not clear how much of each it takes to deice, say, a mile of road. (According to the Times, NYC's Sanitation Department started the season with 250K tons of road salt and have used 346,112 tons so far; more on the cost savings below).
In any case, the CBS reporter's attempt is decidedly non-superlative:Bergen County? More like gherkin county.
"Officials promise the beet juice product, which is more brown than red, won't stain.""Officials promise the beet juice product, which is more brown than red, won't stain."
Meanwhile, due dill-igence reveals that AP beet National Geographic to the punch, with a survey of these unorthodox albeit entirely kosher methods, which dates back to a month ago (these kinds of syndicatable stories are their bread and butter, after all). And by punch, I mean "a commercially prepared beet juice solution, when mixed with salt, serves as a "goo" to which salt sticks, minimizing its tendency to run off into nearby streams." If that sounds more like a 'secret-menu-at-Jamba-Juice' concoction as opposed to repurposed waste material—New York State is reportedly running a pilot program with 100,000 gallons of the stuff—harder options include molasses, potato juice, and "waste from beer-making."
Salt from Staten Island's Atlantic Salt Company; Quartz notes that salt starts at $50/ton for pre-orders and can skyrocket to upwards of quadruple that. Photo by Ángel Franco for the New York Times.
Of course, chemical additives such as calcium chloride (70¢/gal.) have been used for de-icing applications for over a decade now, and Leland Smithson of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials "predicted more on the horizon as chemists experiment with whatever is available." Speaking of which, the next time it snows in the South, perhaps their local strange brew will come in handy: Kool-Aid pickle brine sounds like it might make a perfect cocktail of sugar, salt and acid.
Plus, its blood-red pigment could also serve as a reminder for another weather-related epiphenomenon, a shortage that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio deemed "a serious situation." Per the Times: "The winter storms have taken a toll on the region in various ways, some not as evident as others. For example, the blood supply at donor banks is low because the bad weather has led to the cancellation of blood drives." When there's brine on the streets, give blood—that's how the saying goes, right?
That concludes our Sleet Week coverage. And now, without further ado, Bompas & Parr's cornichon-delier (it's an acetic acid trip):
Now, if only there were a way to power a pickle bulb (a type of sodium lamp) with a lemon battery...