Salty Lawsuit May Set Precedent for BEETing the Winter Roads

Friday, February 27, 2015

A farmer in Lambton County has possibly changed the way we’ll be looking at road salt, after winning a $107,352 lawsuit for damages the municipal government’s road salt caused to his farm.

Specifically, $56,700 was awarded to Joseph and Evelyn Steadman for the depreciation in their property value, and $45,000 for crop losses from 1998 to 2013. The county road crews spread salt along the road that borders the Steadman 96-acre farm in order to melt ice.

“We’re talking about a very serious precedent here,” shares Joe Tiernay (from this Canoe article), executive director of the Ontario Good Roads Association.

During the hearing last spring, the Steadmans provided videos and photos, as well as support from expert environmental and crop scientists.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Steadmans in Sarnia earlier this year in January.

“To me, (a decision like this) is unprecedented in Lambton and I believe in Ontario,” said county solicitor David Cribbs.

The Mayor of Sarnia, Mike Bradley, has said that the decision poses “significant ramifications” for Ontario municipalities where salt is used to treat winter roads.

Understandably, the ruling may be of great concern for some; nevertheless, the case may be a strong indicator that it is time to research and consider new methods.

A growing solution (or an Eco Solution, to be exact) uses beet juice. When sugar is extracted from sugar beets, it leaves a molasses-like by-product that Eco Solutions, a company in Halton Region (Milton), turns into a bio-degradable, more eco-friendly de-icer.

By applying the beet juice to the road first before the road salt, the amount of “bounce and scatter” is reduced, explains the Niagara Region, thus meaning less road salt has to be applied. Niagara uses the sugar beet juice compound to reduce the amount of salt on the roads by as much as 30 per cent – they call it “organic liquid deicing”.

The use of sugar beet juice trims down the amount of road salt from 85 kg per lane kilometre to 78 kg per lane kilometre, saving almost $2 per lane kilometre.

This piece in My Muskoka Now shares that experts say beet juice mixed with salt brine is the most effective in melting ice, also referencing that Niagara saves up to $1,600 a year.

And this solution has become a popular one over the past few years.

This Toronto Star article also explains that molasses from sugar beets, refined and sprayed on roads, organically helps melt ice at temperatures as low as -32 C, with less environmental damage. CTV has also discussed the use of beet juice on Toronto roads.

And this older article in the Digital Journal further explores the financial and environmental benefits of beet juice.

The beet juice solution certainly demonstrates that more eco-friendly methods exist, and may be best in the long-term for the public, municipalities, our environment, and of course, our farmers.