CLEVELAND — The Ohio Department of Transportation announced it will stop buying deicer AquaSalina for use on roads across the state.
ODOT told News 5 it made its decision to stop purchasing the deicer, which is manufactured with brine taken from oil and gas wells, primarily because it is now making its own deicer, but said concerns from environmental groups is a secondary reason for the move.
They have been using AquaSalina since 2013 and said it will use the more than 200,000 gallons it still has on-hand and then not purchase any more of the product.
Bill Lyons, President of the Ohio Community Rights Network and other state environmental groups, has been fighting against the use of AquaSalina for several years over reports the product contains high levels of radioactive Radium 226 and 228.
Lyons pointed to a 2017 report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, that in one instance, showed the product had radioactive levels that were well above the state allowable limit for oil and gas waste in landfills
“It’s a misnomer to call it brine because it’s really toxic and radioactive oil and gas waste which has been allowed for some time to be used on Ohio roads," Lyons said. "Radium 226 has a very long half-life, which means it stays radioactive for thousands of years, so using it jeopardizes future generations. This type of radioactivity is known to cause cancer in various forms."
Lyons said his group is also extremely concerned about House Bill 282, which would label AquaSalina a commodity instead of waste product, allowing it to be more widely distributed on store shelves.
“This bill will allow 20,000 pico-curries per liter for this product, so it’s just outrageous," Lyons said. "When it decays it decays to Radon, which is also very harmful and radioactive, and Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.”
Steve Hambley, Media County Commissioner and former Ohio House member, told News 5 his county and the City of Medina stopped using AquaSalina deicer over environmental concerns in 2020.
Hambley said he's against HB 282, that more extensive testing needs to be conducted on the product.
“I think it’s unwise to broaden its use without a higher level of scrutiny and increase the testing," Hambly said. “It’s variability from well to well, source to source, and then the process of making it into a marketable material, does it have a sufficient amount of testing.”
“Without the sufficient controls in its production and oversight it doesn’t make sense, there are other products that don’t have these qualities. When this bill came up I talked to the county engineer at the time and he said look we’re not using it.”
But David Mansbury, President of Natures Own LLC in Brecksville, which manufactures AquaSalina, maintains his product is safe and believes science is on his side.
Mansbury pointed to a 2019 memo issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources which was a follow-up to its 2017 report, which stated: "the division may need to conduct additional sampling."
He also cited a 2019 report on AuqaSalina from the Ohio Department of Health which concluded: "the environmental health risks from AquaSalina have been shown in this report to be negligible."
Mansbury is hoping a vote on HB 282, which is still in committee, is still possible before the end of the year and believes Ohio roads may not be as safe without his product when temperatures start falling dramatically.
“Their brine is effective to only 15 degrees, plus 15 degrees, and when it turns colder their brine is not effective," Mansbury said. "AquaSalina is effective to 15 degrees below zero.”
“It be would tragic if the decision was made based on bad science because of political pressures and endanger the traveling public. I hope to have an opportunity to speak with ODOT sometime before the snow flies.
"The product is safe, it’s not there causing cancer, there’s no pathways into the body. When we put forth science over emotion, we put forth science over politics, that we will go ahead and once again be supplying ODOT and providing safe roadways for our traveling public."
“The science says the product is safe, I think ODOT has been unfairly targeted by this group because their agenda is an anti-gas and oil agenda."
“We’re confident in our numbers, what we’re trying to get the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to do is show their cards, if you disagree with something, tell us why and let’s work toward an amicable solution.”