December 17, 2011

Skowhegan's beet-based de-icer will save soil, vehicles

Town hopes new product will save money, environment

By Doug Harlow
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- What do you get when you mix high-sugar beet molasses and common highway salt?

click image to enlarge

FILL 'ER UP: Willy Marsh loads salt and sand into a Skowhegan Highway Department plow truck on Thursday. The department will be using a road de-icer product called Ice B Gone made of high-sugar beet molasses that is less corrosive on the environment and vehicles.

Staff photo by David Leaming

You get Ice B'Gone, a road de-icer for winter maintenance that is kinder to the environment and less corrosive on motor vehicles -- especially the trucks that spread salt on icy roads.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said his department is taking delivery of the sweet brownish liquid some time this coming week.

"It's a vegetable-based salt treatment," Dore said. "We're doing this for three reasons -- number one is because we can go farther with less; we'll be using less salt. The second reason is the environment; by using less salt we're contaminating the soil less; and the third thing would be the equipment; the maintenance on the equipment will be less because of less corrosion.

"We have trucks that are three years old that look 10 years old because of corrosion."

Dore said the process involves treating the salt in the Highway Department shed with Ice B'Gone before the salt is loaded onto trucks. Previously, salt -- and for some rural roads, sand and salt -- was spread on town roads with a spray of calcium chloride.

That process has been eliminated.

Dore said the new product reduces the amount of bounce and scatter of the salt, thus reducing the amount of splash onto trucks, moving vehicles and roadside vegetation.

More stays on the road and less salt is used, he said.

The material also aides in lowering the temperature threshold at which salt works on the road to break down ice.

"At 16 degrees, salt stops working," Dore said. "What this will do, this will go to 30 below and the salt will continue to work -- temperatures we'll never reach."

The product is made by Sears Ecological Applications Company, LLC, of Rome, N.Y., and distributed in New England by Innovative Surface Solutions.

According to the Ice B'Gone website, the material is safe to use around animal and humans.

In addition the product:

* Does not affect skin, leather, clothing or carpets. No special handling equipment is required. It is water soluble.

* Reduces the levels of sodium and chloride ion exposure to wells, vegetation and surface water.

* Eliminates the need for sand, a major source of phosphorus contamination.

Innovative Surface Solutions territory manager Frank Beliveau of Northwood, N.H. said Ice B'Gone reduces the corrosive capacity of road salt by 50-70 percent. He said the product has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"It makes equipment last longer and is safer for bridges and concrete," he said. "The sugar in the beet molasses acts as a de-icer itself and is a corrosion inhibitor."

Dore said the cost of the material is higher than conventional road treatments, but it also eliminates use of calcium chloride and, over time, will save the town money. He said the state Department of Transportation uses the material in the southern part of the state where there is a higher traffic volume.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)