As the Mid-Atlantic and New England suffer through another winter storm, road crews are out on the highways fighting the snowy, icy onslaught.
Keeping the highways clear and ice-free can be an expensive enterprise, which has prompted the folks in Wisconsin to play around with a new idea: cheese brine.
Starting in December, Milwaukee started a pilot program to repurpose cheese brine to keep city roads from freezing, according to a Dec. 24 New York Times article. City workers are mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt to trim winter road maintenance costs and reduce pollution.
According to Jeffrey Tews, fleet operations manager for the city’s public works department, provolone or mozzarella brine works best.
“Those have the best salt content,” he told the Times.
It’s a novel idea for America’s Dairyland and one that other local governments are looking at to reduce their costs.
Wisconsin produces 2.7 billion pounds of cheese annually. The brine from cheesemaking is usually shipped to local waste treatment plants. The cheesy residue is permitted for road application up to a maximum of 8 gallons per ton of rock salt.
It might seem like a minor savings, but Polk County, Wis., said it's saved $40,000 in rock salt expenses. And for the cheesemakers, some donate the brine, saving on the hauling costs to the waste treatment plant.
As cheese plants continue to pop up here in the Mid-Atlantic, could this idea be worth an experiment here
-- Charlene Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor