Lawmakers in Ohio are considering re-introducing a bill that would loosen regulations on a de-icer that is made with wastewater from conventional gas wells. But there is evidence that the product has radioactive properties that could harm human health and the environment.
The product, AquaSalina, has been made by Brecksville, Ohio-based Nature’s Own Source for years. It has been sold to retailers, including Lowe’s and other hardware stores, as well as schools and local governments. The company advertises that it works well when it gets really cold, like below 10-15 degrees F.
“I’ve got reports from cities that say it’s actually saved them a ton of money,” said Ohio State Senator Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “It used to take four or five hours to clean the sidewalks in cities, now it takes significantly less.”
Nature’s Own Source recycles brine water from conventional oil and gas wells, not fracked wells, to make the product. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Transportation says it does not currently use AquaSalina or other brine from drilling operations on the roads.
But the Ohio Department of Transportation says it used one million gallons of AquaSalina last winter.
Dolan says it does more than just melt ice, it uses a waste product that’s in abundance.
“Natural brine water, which is in and of itself a problem, if we can make it more safe, more applicable, create jobs in the meantime, use technology and innovation, we should do that,” he said.
Dolan is considering re-introducing a bill he sponsored last year to loosen regulations on AquaSalina. A similar bill was approved by the Ohio House, but it never got a vote in the Ohio Senate.
ODNR tested 14 samples of AquaSalina and found levels of radioactivity that exceeded state limits for drinking water and the environment.
“Do you really need to have a product that might contain that kind of threat to your health?,” asks Trish Demeter of the Ohio Environmental Council.
She’s concerned that if the state legislation reducing regulations on AquaSalina is re-introduced this session, as expected, more people will be spraying it onto sidewalks, driveways and roads.
“If the legislation passes, then there could be a product out there on store shelves available for any Ohioan to use that could potentially have elevated levels of heavy metals and radioactive material,” she said.
Demeter says people use de-icers repeatedly each winter, so the radiation and heavy metals found in AquaSalina could build up in the environment, elevating health concerns, like cancer.
The ODNR report found that it was unlikely that radiation exposure from spreading it on roadways exceeded human dosage limits.
But Senator Dolan says there are numerous studies of the product, and while he has doubts about the validity of ODNR report, “I do not want to do anything that would contaminate our environment, our waterways, our air, our ground,” he said.
Dolan plans to review all available research before deciding whether to reintroduce legislation to loosen regulation on its use.