When people hear the word “radiation" they most likely think of the horrible human and environmental devastation of Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima, and they are correct to think that. Scientists and the data have confirmed that exposure to radiation causes cancer and death—quickly or slowly, depending on the exposure and accumulation.

Yet, in Ohio and other oil/gas producing states like Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma, when the industry’s radioactive waste products are discussed, they are portrayed and classified as harmless by drillers and government officials. Thanks to investigative journalists, to scientific researchers not paid for by the industry, and especially to concerned community members, we now have more unbiased information to propose legislation for the protection of all people of Ohio and the natural environment. Records have been uncovered that the oil and gas industry has known for decades how dangerous this waste really is (America's Radioactive Secret).

So it is baffling to us and many others why elected officials continue to propose legislation protecting the industry’s radioactive waste at the expense of our residents and environment. Five times over the past three General Assemblies they have proposed bills to classify it as a commodity to be used as a road deicer and dust suppressant knowing that it will migrate into our ground and surface waters, which means the radiation will get into our food and drinking water. Radium, once ingested into our bodies, is treated like calcium and settles into our bones and teeth, where it can cause several types of cancer. Once it gets into our water, it will be there for thousands of years because of the long half-life of radium 226.

Our own Ohio Department of Natural Resources performed many tests on one of these products, AquaSalina, and found that the levels of Radium 226 and 228 far exceeded any limits for dumping it into our environment. There are no safe standards for these deadly substances.

But the problem goes much deeper than the current or previous bills being proposed. The state has allowed the sale and spreading of this radioactive waste throughout Ohio since 1985, and continues to allow it. Every summer and winter thousands and thousands of gallons of this radioactive brine have been spread on our roadways and no one is measuring the cumulative effects. What we do know is that no water treatment plant can filter it out.

In Cuyahoga County, a “brine processing facility” has been approved and is in operation a few feet from the Cuyahoga River, close to the convergence with Lake Erie, the source of drinking water for over 11 million people and home to countless fish and other species that humans also consume.

Thanks to a group of concerned residents from the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN), it has been brought to our attention that Ohio already has a law on the books making it a criminal act to place radioactive materials into our drinking water. The legislature passed this law (ORC Section 2927.24) in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks, as a safeguard to protect our water and country from radiation poisoning. I’m sure none of us would have ever imagined that our own government agencies like the ODNR, OHEPA, Ohio Department of Health,and ODOT would be the ones responsible for breaking this law and jeopardizing the health and safety of all Ohioans.

Members of OHCRN have called on Ohio’s Attorney General, Dave Yost, to open an investigation into the violation of Ohio law and the criminal actions of state officials and industry who were and are well aware that this brine is highly radioactive, yet still approve and allow it to be spread in Ohio communities. Yes, ODOT has recently stated that they will no longer purchase AquaSalina and we commend that. However, ODOT is only one customer spreading this product and the bills currently proposed in the legislature, do not reference any particular “brand”, rather they commodify “brine” generically. This opens up the possibility that the brine will simply be rebranded under another name to be spread widely on Ohio roads. This practice needs to be prohibited completely. We urge all residents to get informed on this issue and call on AG Yost to do his job. For more information and supporting documents, including a sample script, go to the OHCRN website.

Bill Lyons, President OHCRN, Franklin County
Susie Beiersdorfer, Secretary OHCRN, Mahoning County
Kathie Jones, Board Member OHCRN, Medina County
Tish O’Dell, Board Member OHCRN, Cuyahoga County