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Cleveland Tackles Snow and Ice in June

photo of John Parker
John Parker (right) of Ice B'Gone Magic says his company's solution -- using magnesium chloride and the sugary byproduct of vodka and rum production -- is safer than using fracking brine.

An Ohio bill would allow for the sale of fracking brine to be used in snow and ice removal. But some alternatives are being discussed at a symposium in Cleveland this week.

In recent years, many cities have mixed brine with road salt to lower the melting temperature of snow and ice. H.B. 393 would allow one of the byproducts from fracking to be used for that purpose.

Brian Birch is COO of the Snow and Ice Management Association, which is holding its annual symposium in Cleveland this week. He says about a quarter of the group’s members are using brine, and that number is growing each year. However, there are situations where chloride-based brines, such as the ones from fracking, aren’t feasible.

Computer chips and butterflies
“Facilities that manufacture computer chips. There’s a chloride-sensitive area where there’s a butterfly refuge, which one of our members has managed.  Once you put that material down, it doesn’t go away.  It goes into solutions [and] goes into the water supply.”

Birch adds that in those situations, there are acetate-based deicers that can be used, but often at a higher cost.

The properties of brine  sprayed on the nation's roads have raised other questions about safety as well.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.