Back in our December issue, we told you about the city’s lengthy history of seeking out alternative deicers for wintry streets. News of the latest entry, cheese brine, was picked up by outlets like The New York Times, USA Today and many others. And as we prepare for another round of snowfall this weekend, Wanda Booker, sanitation services manager for the city, tells Milwaukee Magazine that after seven operations (the brine isn’t useful when temperatures dip below 18º, so it’s been a limited run), her office has not received “any complaints of the odor of the cheese brine.” She adds, “at first blush, it appears to be working comparable to our regular salt brine,” which the city has been using for the past six years on bridge decks to prevent frost from occurring.
Her general impression has been, “so far, so good” for the program, which has seen the mixture spread on streets in Bay View (Lincoln Avenue to the north, Oklahoma Ave to the south, Kinnikinnic to the west and east to the lake). Unlike the molasses that was used years ago, Booker adds that there have been no complaints of the substance tracking into homes.
Ald. Tony Zielinski, who spearheaded the effort, adds that, if the program continues to earn a passing grade in Milwaukee, he’s thinks governments “in Chicago, New York, all over the country will be following suit.”
Final reports are, of course, still being compiled (winter won’t end for a few more weeks if we’re lucky; months if Mother Nature continues to punish us), but the city has had enough positive feedback, that it’s ordered another batch from F&A Dairy in Dresser, the only dairy in the state that has received a Department of Natural Resources permit to use the byproduct on streets, according to Booker. The only costs associated with the cheese addition is transporting the brine to the city.
In addition to potentially saving tax dollars, Booker says the idea was thought of as “sexy” when it was first brought up for discussion (“because Wisconsin is the Dairy State”). Booker also points out that “in the long term, if you can reduce the amount of actual of rock salt that you’re using … that will certainly improve the environmental impact on our lakes, rivers and streams.”
If you live in the Bay View area, please use the comments section to let us know what you’re experiences have been with the sexy cheese.