Farmer sues ODOT alleging crop damage from brine spray

MEDINA, Ohio - A tree farmer has sued the Ohio Department of Transportation, claiming that the brine the department applies on a nearby interstate is to blame for $225,000 in crop damage.

Joe Demeter, 46, said he first noticed some of his ornamental and shade trees were stunted and deformed four years ago.

The department began spreading brine on parts of Interstate 71 in Medina County in 2001 to prevent ice from forming.

Demeter, of Montville Township, said the brine spray has drifted onto parts of his 100-acre farm, gnarling and stunting about 2,500 trees. He plants about 8,000 trees each year.

Landscaper David Jenkins is suing along with Demeter in the Ohio Court of Claims. Jenkins said his trees on his farm near the interstate are about 4 feet tall, while those farther away are 10 feet tall.

The Salt Institute, a group of salt producers, said the brine stays where it is applied. But research by the Wisconsin Transportation Center and the University of Minnesota indicate that the salty spray can affect soil and plants.

Demeter has suggested that the Department of Transportation build an 8-foot berm between his crops and the interstate.

A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment on the lawsuit to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. A message seeking comment was left Friday at agency offices in Columbus.

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