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Campus uses biodegradable de-icer for roads and walkways
Monday, February 09, 2009

It’s a riddle that northern locales have battled for decades. How do you safely keep roadways and sidewalks clear of ice and snow, and still be good stewards of the environment? But this winter, SUNY Fredonia has found a way to do both.

Since early December, its grounds and landscaping crew has been treating all university roads, parking lots and walkways with a new product — aptly named, “Ice B’Gone” — instead of conventional rock salt. The new de-icer is a combination of chloride salts and agriculture-based ingredients and is biodegradable, which means it’s less corrosive to road surfaces, highway equipment, bridges and automobiles.

It also means it’s safer for the environment. Read about the product's award from the EPA>>

The university’s decision to use Ice B’Gone reflects the mission of its Sustainability Committee to make the campus more “green” and reduce its impact on the environment, said Kevin Cloos, director of Facilities Services at SUNY Fredonia and a part of the 25-member committee. Switching to a less corrosive de-icer is also a step that the university can make easily, he added.

Ice B’Gone’s manufacturer, Sears Ecological Applications Company, of Rome, N.Y., projects that their product can lower the use of de-icing material by up to 30 percent, compared to regular rock salt. Ice B’Gone works at much lower temperatures than rock salt, which can lose its effectiveness at 18 to 20 degrees.

“This means the roads do not re-freeze as quickly, so we don’t have to apply the product as frequently,” explained Cloos. “It will actually save us on material and labor by not having to use it as often.”

It also doesn’t have to be mixed with sand, as the university did with rock salt in colder weather, which is resulting in additional savings.

At $66 per ton, Ice B’Gone costs about 30 percent more than rock salt, which was $50 a ton last year, Cloos said, but that price spread is expected to be narrowed and then eliminated.

“As this is our first winter that the campus is using Ice B’Gone, we are still adjusting our application rates and procedures.”

Although the initial cost is higher for the product itself, the lower quantity and labor requirements should more than make up for that.

“We anticipate that overall, the campus will save money,” he said.

That’s an especially important factor for SUNY Fredonia, which has almost 5 miles of roads, 7-1/2 miles of sidewalks and nearly 24 acres of parking lots — including 3,306 parking spaces — that must be cleared after every snowfall.

This winter, with its heavy snowfalls and the coldest January on record since 1977, has dogged all of Western New York, but has served as an ideal proving ground for this new product.

In a typical year, the university purchases 300 tons of de-icing material, an amount that was easily eclipsed by the 400 tons needed last winter. This winter’s tally will be even greater: through January 2009, the university spread 250 tons, eclipsing the 179 tons applied through January last year.

“We’re quite pleased with Ice B’Gone,” said Cloos, who has experienced 12 winters on campus. He’s not alone with his endorsement. Ed Fabritius, SUNY Fredonia’s head grounds supervisor and a veteran of 34 Fredonia winters, also likes the product, Cloos added. “He’s happy with the way it’s been working, and that you don’t have to apply it as frequently.”

Ice B’Gone is also in use at the University of Buffalo, Syracuse University and University of Rochester.

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