COEUR D'ALENE -- Once again this winter Coeur d'Alene will use beet juice to help de-ice city streets. It's the second year for this unique material. But even though it is cheaper, it may also be harmful.
Beet juice and other de-icing products have been on the radar of Idaho's Department of Environmental Quality for several years. Their concern is the after effects on fish and plant life. But they still don't know just how bad it could be.
Last March, a DEQ scientist took KREM to Cedar Creek, which is west of Coeur d'Alene along Interstate 90. It is where during the scientist's research, the water smelled like soap, likely from de-icing products.
"That gave us some concern about water quality and the impacts potentially to streams close to roads," said Dept. of Environmental Quality scientist Tom Herron.
That research will continue through next year. But there is another new and unknown issue, beet juice. While beet juice is cheaper to use, it is also loaded with phosphorus, thousands of times higher than normal levels. That takes away oxygen from organisms that live in the water.
"Depending on the dilution that occurs, with beet juice and storm runoff and the amount of precipitation, there is potentially some impact to water quality," said Herron.
Despite those concerns, the city recently bought another large supply of juice for the winter. Herron sees no problem with that since the research is far from complete. Herron has had early talks with city officials about the beet juice and its possible effects. But the state has had to roll back some of its research due to budget cuts.