A trend that has been sweeping the nation has been harnessed by Sag Harbor native David Schiavoni, who hopes school districts and municipalities across the East End and beyond begin using a sweeter method of clearing their streets of snow and ice: beets.
Now all he needs is a little snow.
“Everything is in place,” said Schiavoni at his business site in Riverhead on Tuesday afternoon. “Now I just need the weather to cooperate.”
Using de-sugared beet juice, combined with salt-water brine, is by no means a new method of de-icing roadways. States throughout the Midwest have been using the technology for years, capitalizing on finding a cheaper and more effective way to de-ice their roadways with a product that was largely consider waste, and dumped down the drain.
Schiavoni, and other producers use beet juice that is left over after the sugar has been removed from sugar beets, a kind of beet not grown to be eaten in salads, but produced solely for its sugar. When the beet juice is combined with a brine, highway departments can pre-treat roadways before a storm and prevent the accumulation of snow and ice. The beet juice makes the brine an effective deicer at far lower temperatures than traditional rock salt.
Depending on the concentration of beet juice in any one formula, said Schiavoni, the treatment can be effective in temperatures ranging from 10-degrees below zero to 40-degrees below zero.
“The more beet juice, the lower the temperature the formula will work in,” said Schiavoni.
Traditional rock salt treatments only melt to 17-degrees below zero before they become ineffective.
In addition to the spray, Schiavoni has developed beet juice soaked salts and sand mixtures that are also effective in deicing roadways and sidewalks, he said.
Schiavoni has owned East End Gunite Pool Supply for over a decade now and has been working on the technology for the last couple of years. In his new Riverhead home, he quickly gained approvals to operate his original company and the new East End Organics, which distributes the beet-based ice and snow melting sprays, sands and salts wholesale to municipalities, school districts and large landscape and snow removal companies. He also sells the product to small businesses and homeowners through retailers like Agway, True Value Hardware and local nurseries.
While the entrepreneur and self proclaimed inventor did partner with the environmental contractor SNI Solutions, he has developed his own recipe for the beet sprays, salt and sand mixtures as well as an affordable sprayer system easily rigged to the back of any truck. All have patents pending, and Schiavoni firmly believes this business represents the future of de-icing roadways, sidewalks and school steps across Long Island.
He offers the spay solution in several sizes, from 275 to 1,000 gallon containers that can be mounted on the backs of trucks to buckets that can be used by school districts to hand spray outdoor stairways and walkways.
For municipalities, Schiavoni said using the spray is the more effective, and affordable, way to keep roads clear of ice. Pre-treatment literally prevents the first inch of roadway surface from freezing at all, he said.
Schiavoni said with pre-treatment, crews will be able to reduce the amount of passes they make to clear a roadway, and will be able to cut the amount of salt they use by 150-percent, making it more affordable in terms of labor and the cost of deicing materials.
“It’s just a quicker, more cost effective way to deal with ice,” he said.
It is also less corrosive than traditional ice melts, meaning it is less taxing on roadways and sidewalks. Schiavoni said it is actually less corrosive than distilled water, making it a safer and more environmentally friendly product, and a better product to enter stormwater systems throughout the East End. Right now, the salts used by most municipalities contain magnesium chlorides.
It is so safe, said Schiavoni, that you can actually drink it in its liquid form, although after demonstrating that fact while longtime employee and right hand man Rick Vinski looked on, Schiavoni noted it was a little salty and not necessarily a beverage most would find palatable.
Schiavoni has already sold his patent pending spray system to the Village of Sag Harbor, East Hampton Town, Riverhead and Patchogue, and has donated product to municipalities and school districts across the East End to try out this winter.
However, the weather has not cooperated, with only one snowstorm recorded this year so far, and temperatures soaring upwards of 50-degrees during parts of January and February. It’s the reason Sag Harbor Village Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley said he is still on the fence, although hopeful the products work.
“Everyone is trying it out,” said Yardley. “It’s natural and bio-degradable.”
Yardley said that using more environmentally friendly products was a priority for his department, particularly as Suffolk County has begun to crack down on municipalities that keep traditional salt sheds, concerned about the impact the salts can have on the environment.
“I am just waiting for the next storm,” said Yardley.