SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The Sioux Falls office of the South Dakota DOT has started using a new chemical called BEET HEET to treat snow and ice-covered roads.
Last month, KELOLAND News first told you that the DOT ordered the de-icer made from the sugar of beets.
This new vegetable ingredient will impact the road recipe for South Dakota drivers.
BEET HEET is starting to make a name for itself when it comes to de-icing South Dakota roads during the winter.
“Who knows what you can make deicers out of. You could use oranges, maybe. I don’t know, it might smell better than beets,” Lead Highway Maintenance Worker Curt Theisen said.
For the record, Theisen says BEET HEET smells like molasses. It comes out reddish in color. This beet extract melts ice at lower temperatures than the regular salt-and-water solution DOT crews have been using.
“With this storm, it’s going to get so cold that if we need to treat any icy spot, we can do that down to a lot colder temperature than what we’d normally be able to do,” Theisen said.
“It costs quite a bit more than we’re used to, but if it’s cost-effective and we can use a lot less salt, I think it’s better for the economy, the environment and everything,” Highway Maintenance Supervisor Keith Voegeli said.
BEET HEET made its South Dakota debut last Sunday along roads including Highway 38, west of Sioux Falls. But the weather was so mild then, unlike today, that it’s hard to gauge how effectively it worked.
“Straight salt would melt-off what we had on Sunday and you try putting some BEET HEET with it, you don’t know is the BEET HEET working, or is it not,” Theisen said.
There’s a learning curve with BEET HEET.
“Right now, we’re at the bottom of the curve, we’re just starting to ramp up,” Theisen said.
DOT crews need to learn the temperature sweet spot when they can apply the de-icer. But crews say BEET HEET has the potential to makes South Dakota roads safer in winter.
“If everything works like they say it’s supposed to, it’s going to be a great tool to have,” Theisen said.
BEET HEET is also a heavier solution that can withstand the strong winds and stick to the pavement longer.