BRECKSVILLE, Ohio - The Ohio Department of Transportation most often uses rock salt to treat icy roads across the state but under the right circumstances will also use a brine, made of salt and water.
When the temperatures dip below freezing, however, they will turn to another solution in their arsenal called Aquasalina.
David Mansbery, President of 'Nature's Own Source LLC,' which processes the solution, describes it as "ancient sea water."
It is produced from a byproduct of above ground oil drilling then filtered at one of the company's two facilities in Northeast Ohio.
Mansbery says the solution's natural chemistry makes it possible to battle ice to temperatures of -15 degrees where salt is ineffective.
"Manmade brine is a 23-percent sodium chloride solution, ours is different; again, this is natural sea water that contains 8-10 percent calcium chloride, some mag chloride and a lower level of sodium chloride," said Mansbery.
But Aquasalina has also come under fire from environmental groups and others who cite an Ohio Department of Natural Resources lab test that concluded that Aquasalina also has hazardous levels of radioactivity.
In a July 2017 memorandum, the ODNR reported that the average radioactivity in Aquasalina exceeds the drinking water limits for Radium 226 and 228 by a factor of 300.
Environmental groups like the Buckeye Environmental Network believe it should not be used on roads where it can accumulate and over time impact the environment as well as health and safety.
"It's radioactive. I mean, it is radioactive waste from the oil and gas industry. I mean, it's been proven; it's been tested by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Health," said Teresa Mills, executive director of the Buckeye Environmental Network.
Mansbery says the ODNR has since admitted to him that their test was flawed.
He shared with FOX 8 News numerous other studies, including an Ohio Department of Transportation study conducted as recently as December 2018, which show that the product is safe for people and for the environment.
"This product is very well studied. It's been studied by Temple University from PennDOT. We have had Akron University, Montana State University studies relative to ODOT, all involving the Federal Highway Administration, as well," said Mansbery.
"We are currently working with the ODNR. The protocols that they used in there were not sound; they have acknowledged that to us, and they are working with us to develop a sound testing procedure," he told FOX 8 News.
The different studies have become the ammunition for a debate among Ohio state representatives as they consider legislation that would deregulate solutions like Aquasalina.
Democratic Representative Fred Strahorn of Dayton has been among the most outspoken in favor of regulation citing the 2017 ODNR report.
“This brine is chemical, industrial waste, and according to ODNR’s own study, poses a risk to our health and our environment if applied improperly,” Strahorn writes on his web page.
“Without any safeguards on the use of this product, the consequences could be severe.”
But Republican Representative Anthony DeVitis of Green, in Summit County, supports the bill, citing more recent studies.
In an email to FOX 8, from his office on Monday DeVitis said:
“HB 393 from the 132nd GA was a companion bill to SB 165 sponsored by Senators Dolan & Skindell. The bill included statutory language to encourage companies, to process raw brine from oil and gas wells and turn it into useful products for de-icing/anti-icing, dust suppression, portable restroom cleaner, etc. This language would enable this product to compete with other manufactured products or salt for de-icing/anti-icing instead of requiring individuals to register and report all use because ODNR continues to view the product as brine.
Eleven of the 12 ODOT districts and now all of the Ohio Turnpike already use it to keep our roads safer in the winter because it is a safer alternative to other products. A recent ODOT study confirms what all other previous studies have done, proving raw brine to be most effective compared to other products on the market and presents no environmental concerns.”
Senator Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls, who helped co-sponsor the bill in the Ohio Senate, also responded to FOX 8 News with a statement which said:
“I share the same objectives as the environmental groups - clean air, clean water and a sustainable environment. I am confident that as the process plays out, including testing and inspections, environmental groups will see that the innovation and new technology brought to us by the private sector will produce a safer and less corrosive product.”
With respect to the radioactive claim of his product, Mansbery showed FOX 8 News a display of common foods, including salt, that he says are all more radioactive than his product.
"I can tell you that Brazil nuts, white potatoes, carrots, lima beans, meat, red meat, your bananas are all more radioactive than the Aquasalina," said Mansbery, adding that Aquasalina is not intended for human consumption.
He hopes that, ultimately, the ODNR study will be "corrected" and that lawmakers and others will be able to base their decisions based on the most recent data.
But he believes that because the solution is a byproduct of the oil industry it may always be targeted by environmentalists and others who raise money on claims of environmental hazards."
"This product is saving lives on the highway when temperatures drop below ten degrees, ten, zero, minus ten, minus fifteen like we have had. This is the go-to product that will eliminate the formation of black ice and keep the roads safe for the travelling public. We also add a corrosion inhibitor to the product making it 70-percent less corrosive than rock salt. That protects our infrastructure, our cars, our bridges."