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Replacing road salt with beets may support Michigan's farmers

Flickr User skepticalview

A Western Michigan University scientist says replacing road salt with beet by-products could reduce pollution and benefit the state’s farmers. But she says more research is needed into the possible downsides. 

Salt helps to keep Michigan’s roads clear in the winter. But it also eats away at the pavement and pollutes the lakes and streams it washes into. A bill that passed the state Senate calls for an experiment - swapping or at least supplementing road salt with sugar beet byproducts. Western biologist Kathryn Docherty says that could cut down on salt pollution. But she says it could also fuel unwanted growth of sugar-loving microorganisms.

"Understanding what will happen as a result of putting a pretty easy-to-digest compound onto roads is something that I think should be studied further…"

Docherty says the proposal, now in a state house committee, could help Michigan farmers. She says northern Michigan has an excellent climate for growing beets.