De-Icing on Da’Cake

De-Icing on Da’Cake

By Bonnie Wurst –

As green as the grass was this past Holiday Season for much of the Northeast, is as unusual as the possible solutions brought forth to deal with the solid coatings of ice that cover city streets and sidewalks – like the pop-up, skating rink we were gifted with at the beginning of the New Year.

Pedestrians, drivers, dogs, cats and even squirrels (who are usually most adept at running across high voltage electric lines), found themselves slip-sliding away on a volatile mix of snow, ice pellets and freezing rain. And then came the ice-ing on the cake, a deep-freeze blowing in from the Arctic. It was Armageddon.

With all the technology we have at our disposal, we still haven’t quite figured out how to melt ice. We are prisoners of our own ‘construction’. City infrastructures, the streets and sidewalks, were never conceived with the best interest of the very citizens they serve in mind, but rather with the interests of the people voted into power. It was all conceived within the confines of politics, power and big business – with no real vision.

In other words, we’ve created a mess of mass-proportions, a mess we can’t seem to get ourselves out of. Sadly, the future doesn’t look like it’s going to hold much traction either. Temporary solutions abound, as fixing what is not fixable becomes clearer each year and infrastructures fall apart. It’s like adding too much salt to the soup and then trying to fix it up by adding other ingredients. Add a little of this, maybe some of that – and in the end creating a disaster in a pot. The only solution is to throw it out and start from the beginning.

What solutions then lay ahead? Salt alone isn’t the complete saline solution. It might be the cheapest way to melt ice but it’s useless in temperatures lower than -20 C, when we usually need it the most. And the hundreds of tonnes of the stuff used yearly in our cities, seeps into our waterways and the environment – never mind corroding the very infrastructures it was meant to keep safe.

Some forward thinkers, environmentalists and scientists (when not busy planning really important things, like future trips to Mars) have been coming up with alternative solutions to the de-icing recipes. Here’s a few that will make you wonder about humans, reputed to be the most intelligent species on the planet.

Potato Juice: A waste product of vodka and rum distillation, it is being used as a de-icing agent in the snowy mountain roads of Tennessee. If one slipped on the ice and managed to slip a few chunks of the potent content into their mouths before the pain set in, it could be a whole lot of fun.


Pickle Brine: A county in New Jersey sprays sidewalks and streets with pickle juice. Apparently the salty green liquid melts snow as well as salt, costs less and is far better for the environment. If it came with a smoked meat sandwich and a side order of fries, it just might work.


Beet Juice: An extraction of waste water from sugar beets that sticks better to ice. It’s biodegradable and a favorite with environmentalists. A few boroughs of Montreal experimented with beet-salt mixtures, but it stuck to everything and the smell was horrible. Yet studies have shown beet juice helps to lower blood pressure. Perhaps it’s not such a bad idea with all the traffic, detours and fear of falling cement slabs rocking the city.

And the De-icing on Da’ Cake of them all…


Cheese Brine: In the dairy heartland of the U.S., some cities are using the liquid brine from cheese production to de-ice roads. Apparently tens of thousands of gallons of the stuff are used each year to help the rock salt stick to roads and melt ice faster. With an impressive freezing point of -29 C, it does have its merits – as well as the potential to turn rush hour into ‘Happy Hour’ if crackers and Dijon mustard were supplied.

My suggestion: Move South.


Bonnie Wurst is a reporter, a weekly columnist and feature writer for the Montreal Times newspaper. She is a novelist, ghost writer (not the scary kind) and humorist. Her book “Damaged Goods Re-Stitched” can be found on For ‘HUMOR SOUP FOR THE SOUL’ speaking engagements & workshops, please contact her at

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