Wisconsin Uses Cheese to Thaw Roads

Milwaukee begins repurposing cheese brine

Workers salt truck Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Workers manually spreading salt from a salt truck in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.     Photo: Michael Pereckas/Wikimedia

Would you care for some freshly grated mozzarella on your highway?

In Wisconsin, where residents proudly display their love of dairy products on license plates, in their laws, and even on their heads, road crews are using cheese on icy roads. Cheese brine, a cheese byproduct normally discarded, makes a fair deicer, and Milwaukee started cutting its regular road salt with brine this month.

"You want to use provolone or mozzarella," Jeffrey A. Tews, the fleet operations manager for the public works department, told The New York Times. "Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it."

In a state that produced 2.7 billion pounds of cheese in 2012, donating brine to local governments can be cost-effective for dairy producers. F & A Dairy Products reportedly saves more than $20,000 a year in hauling and disposal costs. Cutting down on road salt also means less gets washed away to pollute waterways.

Milwaukee isn't the first local government to use cheese on icy roads. Near the Minnesota border, Polk County began using cheese brine on local highways in 2009, saving the county $40,000 in rock-salt expenses. Chehalis, Washington, also uses an anti-icing mixture that includes cheese brine.

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