DRESSER, Wisc. (KARE) - Wisconsinites embrace winter almost as much as theylove their cheese. It was only a matter of time until someone combinedthe two.

"Only in Wisconsin," laughs Polk County plow driver KevinJensen. A flip of a switch and his truck starts dispensing a mix ofsalt and cheese brine, straight from a local dairy plant.

"I'vegotten ribbing from other counties," admits Moe Norby, the Polk CountyHighway Department technical support manager who came up with the idea.

Norbycontacted F & A Dairy Products in Dresser which bathes itsmozzarella and provolone cheeses in tanks of brine. Norby figured thesame salt water that gives cheese its flavor could help clear icyhighways too. He was right.

"It actually worked better for us atlower temperatures than regular salt brine. We believe because theorganics in the product help it not freeze at lower temperatures," Norbysaid.

Norby says the brine is odorless once it's applied to ahighway, though Jensen appreciates its bouquet while filling his tank."It smells like cheese," he says, which suits him just fine. "I'm fromWisconsin, of course I like cheese."

Or maybe it's the smell ofmoney. Polk County estimated its first year saving from cheese brine at$40,000. More cheese brine means less salt and fewer other de-icingchemicals have to be used on county roads.

The cheese factory,which gives the brine to the county, is saving money too. ChuckEngdahl, the plant's waste water manager, estimates annual savings ashigh as $25,000 due to brine no longer being transported to Superior fortreatment.

The Wisconsin DNR issued a permit to F & A beforeit could begin diverting its brine for highway use. Barron County isnow also regularly picking up cheese brine, as are a couple of towns.

TheMilwaukee Public Works Department sent a truck to Dresser to pick up600 gallons of cheese brine for a pilot project being run in the city.Early results have been favorable, according to a public worksspokesperson.

Meantime, F & A has taken on a bit of celebritystatus. The New York Times called this week and CNN was recently at theplant taking pictures of its ice-fighting brine.

"It's kind of nice to be known for that too," smiled Mike Breault, the cheese plant's manager. "It's a win, win."

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