Environmental group asks for investigation into road brine

Bob Finnan, The Gazette

June 23, 2021


MEDINA — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and nine prosecuting attorneys from around Ohio, including Medina County's Forrest Thompson, have been asked to launch an investigation into the disposal of radioactive waste in Ohio watersheds.


The Ohio Community Rights Network is made up of concerned residents, which includes Sharon Township's Kathie Jones, who spoke to Medina County commissioners Tuesday.

The residents charge that the crime of poisoning is knowingly caused by the spreading of radioactive oil and gas drilling “brine” on public highways as a deicer and dust suppressant. Poisoning is a first-degree felony in violation, according to Ohio Revised Code.


Letters and packets of information on the toxicity of brine were delivered to the prosecuting attorneys in Athens, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lucas, Medina, Portage, Mahoning, Williams and Wood counties, as well as to Yost.


Jones called it "radioactive pollution in our waterways."


She said testing done by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 2017 showed that all tested samples of brine used for those purposes exceeded both federal and state standards of radioactivity limits into the environment. Despite these results, the radioactive substance is being spread in drinking water basins and ecosystems, Jones said. Other tests run by independent researchers at Penn State, the National Resources Defense Council and Duquesne University have shown similar results.


The Ohio Legislature is currently considering House Bill 282 and Senate Bill 171 that would further encourage the spreading of brine by reclassifying it as a commodity in the state. However, even without passage of these bills, the Ohio Department of Transportation and ODNR have both permitted and utilized brine for several years throughout the state as a road de-icer and dust suppressant.


Several local communities, including the city of Medina, have quit using AquaSalina. Medina Service Director Nino Piccoli said the city now uses sodium chloride, although it had a contract and supply of AquaSalina as recently as 2019.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources tested the brine and previously said high levels of radium were found in much of the brine from oil and gas production wells. Ra226 and Ra229 are cancer-inducing and soluble in water. The Ohio Department of Transportation concluded in its report that AquaSalina produced from conventional oil and gas production does not increase the Ra226 and Ra228 concentrations in the brine.


In 2020, an ODOT spokesman said AquaSalina's risk to public health when it's used as a deicer is negligible.


"We all need to be concerned about this," Jones said. “We have tried to bring this problem to the attention of our elected officials and have found that they are more concerned with protecting the profits of the oil/gas industry than protecting the people, the environment or the future of the state. We have been accused of breaking the law for attempting to pass laws banning this waste in our communities and now we find out that the state is breaking its own law. This needs to be exposed and dealt with.”


Members of the Ohio Community Rights Network have pursued local laws in 12 counties to protect the rights of ecosystems and peoples’ rights to fresh water and to ban the spread and depositing of fracking waste in communities.


“I’m infuriated that we would put a radioactive processing plant on the banks of this beautiful river ...," Cleveland resident and activist Paul Sherlock said in a statement. "Here in Cleveland (we) have just witnessed so much celebration over the 50-year anniversary of the Cuyahoga River burning and ‘clean up,’ only to learn that the ODNR chief has permitted a processing facility of this radioactive brine just a few feet from the banks of the Cuyahoga River. It may not burn this time, but the dangers are even worse.”


Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.