The practice of using beet brine to combat winter road conditions has gained traction over the past few years.
Back in 2014 Doug Borrowman, owner of TD Bobcat Services, started using the Beet 55 Juice which was being manufactured in the shop’s backyard by Lugr Enterprises Inc.
Later years after TD Bobcat Services and Lugr Enterprises Inc had joined forces they moved the manufacturing to a larger facility in Red Deer in order to keep up with production demand.
“Every product that’s used isn’t a one and done,” said Borrowman. “This isn’t the be all to end all, it’s just another tool that where you were using salt you could use this.”
Beet 55 Juice is made up of salt brine and a byproduct from the sugar refining process of sugar beets.
The beet pulp comes out of the States as all of Canada’s goes to the Hutterites to be used as a feed supplement.
The product creates it own heat allowing the liquid to work at temperatures as cold as -20 C, whereas a traditional salt brine would start to re-freeze at -13 C.
“You can in effect depending on when you put it down, salt can actually make the situation worse than what it was when you started,” explained Borrowman.
The beets also prevent snow or ice from being able to bond with the road surface forming a barrier and making it easier to plow after snowfalls.
Additionally, Borrowman says, the other advantage to using beet brine is it is much safer for the environment.
Beet juice works as a natural rust inhibitor, so adding it to the brine reduces the corrosiveness of the salt and stops it from eating away at cars or boots.
“Salt is extremely hard on the environment,” added Borrowman. “With a salt brine we’re putting 23 per cent salt by volume [on the roads], with our product we’re putting on 17 [per cent].”
In the summer months the affects of salt spray can be seen as run off down the sides of the roads as brown grass and damaged crops, referenced Borrowman.
“We’ve sacrificed the environment for safety and that’s been the main thing,” Borrowman commented. “I don’t believe the two have to be exclusive.”
“I think you can have an environmentally friendly product, which is what we offer, and you can still provide for the safety of people.”
Borrowman and TD Bobcat are currently applying the product in various parking lots and drive-thru’s around Sylvan Lake.
Many customers around Alberta including Okotoks, Lacombe and Canmore have also started using the product, alongside municipalities such as the City of Calgary and the Town of Sylvan Lake.
The Town Sylvan Lake uses Beet 55 Juice, applied by Terry’s Lease Maintenance, as well as the traditional salt and sand application to control road conditions through the winter months.
John Watson, operations manager with the Town of Sylvan Lake, says the beet brine is being used in “problem areas” such as traffic signals, school zones, rail crossings and highway intersections.
“Although it appears to be brownish it does not stain,” said Watson. “It does have a distinct odour which some residents may detect when travelling through those areas where beet brine has been laid down.”
The colour of the brine, according to Borrowman, is a common misconception.
He explained the brown, not purple, brine will not stain vehicles, clothes, shoes or floors like salt does.
The product can be used as a pre-treatment before or during a snowstorm to prevent the ice from bonding, but also serves effective if applied afterwards.
“This product is used extensively throughout the United States, the northern States, they’ve been using this product for almost 35/40 years down there with obviously good results or they wouldn’t still be doing it,” said Borrowman.