Using their cheese heads: Wisconsin utilizing cheese brine to de-ice winter roads

Swiss cheese

Only in Wisconsin.

The Badger State is known for its plethora of cheese products, so it only makes sense that someone would find a way to use the byproducts from the dairy delight to de-ice wintery roads.

According to The New York Times, the public works department in Milwaukee is piloting a program that uses cheese brine, mixed with regular rock salt, on roads to keep them from freezing. The creative repurposing is being used to cut down on cost and reduce pollution — but it could come at a smelly price.

Officials are evaluating whether or not residents will be able to smell the de-icing mixture, as well as if the cheesy solution will attract more rodents.

And it’s so far, so good. Residents of Bay View, a Milwaukee neighborhood, have been able to detect little difference in scent after the cheese de-icer has been used, unless they lean down to sniff the road at a close distance.

“We never look down or get that close,” Ghassan A. Korban, the public works commissioner, told the Times as he stood near a cheese brine truck. “If you can’t smell it from this height, then you won’t smell it.”

Some cheese types work better than others, with mozzarella and provolone topping the list. The cheese brine mixture also sticks to the road better than the old mixture, making it more effective at keeping roads ice-free.

The state produced 2.7 billion pounds of cheese in 2012, leaving a surplus of brine that was shipped to waste facilities. Some dairy companies are now donating their waste to any cities that will take it off their hands.

Despite its cheesy prowess, Wisconsin is not the first state to utilize dairy waste for wintery roads. The town of Chehalis, Wash., has been using cheese brine in its de-icing solution since 2008.