There is something cheesy going on in Wisconsin these days and it isn't a
bunch of rabid Packer fans in cheese hats. This winter it is the roads
in Milwaukee that are getting spread with Gouda and cheddar -- well,
sort of. It is De-icing Truck at work (Photo by Oregon DOT/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)actually the waste product of the cheese-making process
that is being tested for use as a road de-icer.
Cheese making leaves behind a salty brine that dairies in the state spend thousands of dollars to dispose of. Giving it to road crews to use as a de-icer saves both the dairies and the city money and is a way to recycle the waste product. It is a resource that is uniquely plentiful in the dairy state.
The substance is still being tested on the roads and is currently not replacing salt, but is being used as a primer so that crews can use less salt.
The idea started several years ago in Polk County, Wisconsin, when rural highway worker Emil Norby hit on the idea that the brine could be used to help de-ice roads. The cost savings were significant. That year the county Cheese making in process (Public Domain Image)saved $30,000 in brine disposal costs and $40,000 on rock salt.
Now it is time for Milwaukee to see what kind of cost savings is in store for them as they strive to keep their drivers safe from icy winter road problems. The environmental impact of the brine is still unknown.
While there is a certain air of success about the idea, there is another air about it too. Just like cheese -- it stinks. It gives off a sour odor that not everyone is exactly enchanted with. Emil Norby doesn't mind it at all -- he says it smells like Wisconsin. While cheese lovers may be fine with it, everyone else could end up reaching for the air freshener. It may be a unique way of going green by smelling a bit ripe.
While Schlitz may be the beer that made Milwaukee famous, cheese brine could become the stinky de-icer that made the Midwestern metropolis infamous. Oh ya, you betcha!
Sources: MSN, Mirror