Could cheese be used as a de-icer on Milwaukee roads?

CREATED Sep 11, 2013 - UPDATED: Sep 11, 2013

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MILWAUKEE – Winter is still a ways off, but the City of Milwaukee is already talking about ways to treat the streets when the snow sneaks back into the forecast.  Milwaukee Department of Public Works currently uses rock salt but others have used everything from beets to sand.

This winter, Milwaukee DPW hopes to start a program that could be called Cheesehead-friendly.  “Sounds pretty weird... sounds pretty tasty,” Kallen Jennison tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka after hearing about the possibility of using not quite cheese on the roads, but cheese brine.

Ben Raatz knows a few things about cheese and the cheese-making process, he works at the Wisconsin Cheese Mart where cheese brine is a pretty commonly used term, “It's just the waste, the excess waste when they drain off when they're making curds, they drain off that brine, it's just salty.”

The liquid cheese brine activates the currently used rock salt to work faster.  The combination of the wet cheese brine and the dry salt means safer roads sooner.

Alderman Tony Zielinski proposed the idea to the Department of Public Works, “We have an opportunity to reduce costs, help the environment and help eliminate the waste that would be put in a landfill.”

And cheese lovers like Lukas Sparks are thinking it may be a Gouda idea, “I just think it's an interesting way to re-use a byproduct, so I'm all for efficiency.”

Tori Hubertz went to UW-Madison where they used sand instead of salt to treat the roads to minimize the environmental impact so she is supportive of the new idea, “If cheese brine is more environmentally friendly and more efficient, go for it!”

Though others may take some convincing, "I wonder if they're going to smell a little bit... that'd be the only concern I have,” Raatz explains.

But Alderman Zielinski says that shouldn’t be a concern, “If you implement this in the right way, there's no smell or anything like that associated with that so everything we can see is all on the upside.”

And no mold in the one Wisconsin county that has been using cheese brine successfully for the past four years, cutting salt back by 30 percent.

Alderman Zielinski hopes Milwaukee will see similar results, “I figured if Polk County can do this where it's further north, where its colder, they experience colder weather than Milwaukee, if they can do it, and its successful for them, it should be successful for Milwaukee."

The Public Works Committee heard the proposal today and may begin incorporating cheese brine as early as this winter. Adlerman Zielinski says, “They found that this is something worth exploring and they want to set up a pilot program so the intent is that we would set up this program in time for this year and we'd weigh the results.”