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Transportation Researchers Find Unusual Source For Environmentally Friendly Snow and Ice Control

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Transportation Researchers Find Unusual Source For Environmentally Friendly Snow and Ice Control

Federal Highway Administration
December 7, 1999

Tuesday, December 7, 1999
Contact: Karen Whitney
Tel.: 202-366-0660
FHWA 76-99

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced that researchers have discovered how cheap feedstocks, such as cheese whey, can be used to make inexpensive calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), an environmentally-friendly snow and ice control material used for roadway deicing and anti-icing.

Several states use CMA to maintain the safety and efficiency of highways and bridges during the winter months.

"President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to protecting the environment and improving safety, their highest transportation priority," Secretary Slater said. "The results of this research can help improve the quality of life in our communities and make them safer for motorists and pedestrians alike."

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and several state highway agencies, funded the research which involves fermenting cheese whey to produce acetic acid which, in turn, reacts with lime to produce CMA. Researchers from Ohio State University’s Department of Chemical Engineering conducted the research on behalf of the agencies.

"Some of the largest strides in research come from a willingness to find significance in the seemingly insignificant," FHWA Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle said about the use of the cheese byproduct. "This discovery is tremendously valuable because it illustrates the kind of ingenuity and resourcefulness that will enable us to meet the transportation challenges of the new millennium."

CMA is a mixture of calcium acetate and magnesium acetate and has a deicing ability comparable to salt. Although salt is less expensive, CMA has no significant health or environmental concerns. It is not corrosive to vehicles and not harmful to concrete, structural steel, vegetation, fish or other aquatic life.

Many states have expressed interest in the findings which show that production of acetate from waste liquid whey could provide approximately 1.7 billion pounds per year of low cost CMA and potassium acetate for highway and airport runway deicing and anti-icing materials.

Deicing tests have shown that the whey-based product has an equal or slightly better ice penetration rate than that of commercial CMA. Cost analysis shows that CMA made from cheese whey can be produced at a cost of less than 30 percent of the current market price for commercial CMA, helping to make environmentally-friendly winter highway maintenance operations more cost-effective. Researchers have also developed methods for producing CMA from sewage sludge with similar results.

The results of this study are documented in a report (FHWA- RD-98-174) titled Calcium Magnesium Acetate at Lower Production Cost: Production of CMA Deicer from Cheese Whey.


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