Applaud Green Solution to Icy Roads

Target: Emil Norby, Polk County Highway Department Technical Support Manager

Goal: Applaud innovative method of de-icing roads that reduces waste and saves taxpayer money

More and more cities in Wisconsin have been embracing a relatively new solution to the problem of the state’s icy roads: cheese brine. Wisconsin receives about 50 inches of snow per year on average, and in Milwaukee, the state’s biggest city, the costs of using traditional rock salt can rise above $10 million. Milwaukee has been experimenting with alternatives to salt for over a decade, including using a substance like molasses and spraying sugar beet juice on the salt to prolong its life, but over time these experiments proved ineffective.

Polk County first implemented a very Wisconsin solution in 2009 by mixing their rock salt with cheese brine and has seen excellent results. Emil Norby, the technical support manager at the Polk County Highway Department, was the originator of the idea in Wisconsin, and he told The New York Times, “If you put dry salt on a roadway, you typically lose 30 percent to bounce and traffic.” It can also end up coating the roads too thinly or washing into local waterways.

The Times reports that Polk County saved $40,000 the first year it began using the brine mixture, and according to the wastewater manager of F & A Dairy Products, donating their excess brine to the community saves the company around $20,000 because they no longer have to ship it to waste treatment facilities. In Milwaukee, where a pilot program to transition to cheese brine for de-icing recently began, officials are excited about the savings in both time and money. Jeffrey A. Tews of the local public works department commented, “You want to use provolone or mozzarella. Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it.” Local laws currently require that highway departments use a mixture of eight gallons of brine per ton of rock salt, since they do not yet know if cheese brine on its own would be effective or have negative results. However, many other municipalities outside Wisconsin have been asking local officials about the program, which provides a great alternative to rock salt from pretty much every angle.

By signing this petition, you are thanking Emil Norby and Polk County for developing and implementing this fantastic solution to icy highways that answers the various problems with the use of rock salt. You are encouraging them to continue to be an example in innovating solutions to our communities’ problems.


Dear Emil Norby,

Your innovative idea to use excess cheese brine on dangerous winter roads solves the myriad problems with using rock salt, from the sheer cost of purchasing, storing, and transporting salt for local use, to the environmental costs of waste and pollution due to salt scattering from roads and entering local waters. This solution also reduces costs for local cheese producers by allowing them to donate excess brine, and reduces the waste that results from treating cheese brine with chemicals.

Thank you for envisioning and implementing this solution for the benefit of Polk County and all American counties. I encourage you to continue setting an example for the rest of the country in terms of our potential for community sustainability.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Zerohund via Wikimedia Commons

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