LAMBTON A long-suffering farm couple was awarded more than $100,000 after an Ontario court ruled that salt used on icy roads decreased the farms property value and reduced crop yields over 15 years.
Joseph and Evelyn Steadman, of Alvinston in Lambton County, farm 96 acres of hay, wheat and soybeans. On Jan. 16 they were awarded $107,352 $45,000 for crop losses from 1998 to 2013; $56,700 for a decrease in property value and $5,652 for soil and plant tests. In total, the couple collected 126 soil samples that were found to have high levels of salt.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Carey ruled the salt “was a significant harm which amounted to unreasonable interference with the plaintiffs property for which they are entitled to be compensated.” The judge concluded about 15 per cent of the Steadmans farm was significantly damaged by road salt.
Court heard testimony from an environmental engineer who said Lambton Countys salt application rate is 54 per cent higher than the recommended rates from the Ministry of Transportation.
“It is possible that the County of Lambton is over-applying road salt,” said environmental engineer Michael Duchene.
Lambton County officials argued the high amount of salt could be attributed to Roundup, a claim dismissed by the judge as there are no studies linking Roundup to high salt levels.
This wasnt the first Ontario case involving farmers and road salt.
In 1981, Niagara peach and apple growers Louis Schneck and Michael Rokeby claimed road salt had been damaging their yields for decades. The judge ruled in their favour for damages dating back 10 years to 1971. Court documents from that time do not say how much money was awarded. The province appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but the countrys top court dismissed the appeal.