Brown ice mystery solved

What is that smell? Around campus, students have noticed a nose-wrinkling smell wafting in the air. It has been most commonly noticed in the entrances of the buildings, according to sophomore, Monika Shukel.

“My friend and I were leaving from choir and we saw brown footsteps coming in,” Shukel said. “It’s not super noticeable but it is there.”

Jerry Raguse, the grounds services supervisor, said the source of the slight odor is from the new de-icer put on the sidewalks.

“It’s made out of magnesium chloride, and it’s treated with a byproduct from the distilling industry. That’s the brown color,” Raguse said. “[The byproduct] might be causing the light odor.”

Raguse has tried other compounds in the past, but none of them seem as promising as the de-icer this year.

“Some are ecologically friendly, but some don’t do a great job taking care of the ice in our climate,” Raguse said.

Raguse also said the new de-icer has residual effects on the sidewalks. So when the next freezing rain comes, Raguse said the de-icer will help the sidewalks stay clear when the groundskeepers are not here.

This confirms what Shukel, along with sophomores, Aspen Bue and Emily Breitbach, believed to be the source of the smell around campus.

“It kind of smells like a bathroom smell,” Shukel said.  “It’s not super potent, but it’s definitely some sort of smell that looks brown.”

Bue said the de-icer put off a different kind of scent than what Shukel described.

“I would describe [the smell] as wet dog and a little sweaty,” Bue said.

Cassandra Beckmann, a junior and resident in Bogstad East also noticed the smell had made its way to the entrance of the apartments.

“[The smell is] nasty,” she said. “It honestly smelled like manure.” Beckmann said she grew up on a farm and would recognize that smell anywhere.

Although Beckmann thought the smell was coming from the materials used on the ice, she also thought that sugar beets could be the problem.

“When the sugar beets are processing, you can smell that everywhere in the Fargo area,” Beckmann said.

According to Beckmann, when beets are being processed, they can leave a sugary scent behind, making the air smell a bit off. She said that the sugar beets in the Fargo area are usually processed during the spring time.

Raguse said that sugar beets are not the source of the odor. He was told by the local distributor, a landscape firm, that the liquid in the de-icer comes from the distilling industry.

Shukel believes that salt would have been the better choice. She understands that the materials were put down to combat the ice and lower the amount of times that students slip and slide, but salt seems to have more beneficial effects.

“[The new de-icer] causes a lot of footprints,” Shukel said. “Salt is less messy.”

Breitbach would rather see the college using gravel. She has also noticed the footprints that trek into the buildings and has seen places where it has stained the floor.

“The main thing is, it leaves an orangish tint,” Breitbach said.

Beckmann understands that the college may have its own reasons for using this new de-icer; however, it would be nice to know if the new materials are making a difference.

According to Raguse, the new de-icer does not make a significant difference in benefitting the campus, but it is more ecologically friendly.

“The main thing we are looking at on campus is the impact to the environment and trying to minimize that,” Raguse said. “Both sand and untreated salt release larger amounts of chloride into the environment and into the rivers.”

Raguse plans on continuing to use the new de-icer next year because of the promise it has shown for the college.

According to Raguse, the new product has minimal impact on the environment, which is important to the college. As long as students are safe, the pros outweigh the cons.

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