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Top Ohio EPA award recognizes collaborative acid mine drainage project

Anna Hartenbach and Colleen Carow | May 25, 2018
EPA Award

Top Ohio EPA award recognizes collaborative acid mine drainage project

Anna Hartenbach and Colleen Carow | May 25, 2018

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized Ohio University earlier this month with the agency’s highest environmental stewardship award for OHIO’s focus on sustainability, including its acid mine drainage (AMD) remediation efforts.

Guy Riefler, chair of the Russ College Department of Civil Engineering, was honored along with collaborator John Sabraw, chair of painting and drawing in the School of Art and Design, and Rural Action’s Michelle Shively. The trio developed an AMD remediation pilot-scale plant at John Altier Park in Corning, Ohio, to remove AMD pollution from local Sunday Creek.

“The award was the result of many contributions, but I’m very proud to be a part of it and receive recognition. For the university as a whole, the award is a big deal,” Riefler said.

AMD pollution is acidic water, marked by an orange tinge resulting from iron precipitation that flows from mining sites. Riefler, who has been collaborating with Sabraw for several years, developed a process that removes the pollution, leaving a sludge byproduct that can be used to create paint pigments. Sabraw employs them in his artwork – and connected the duo with Gamblin Artist Colors in Portland, Oregon, which is producing a co-branded oil paint.

Surrounded by artwork created with the pigments, the pilot plant team presented at Baker University Center’s Trisolini Gallery to Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler, OHIO President M. Duane Nellis, faculty and staff, and community members.

Sabraw said the presentation was an opportunity to share the project’s science, creative outreach and community involvement.

“Most of the time, we’re working away continuously, so this award provides a marker for us to pause and reflect on what we’ve achieved so far,” he said. “Our team and students have really benefitted.”

With this award, OHIO was recognized for a range of sustainability activities involving the local community and directed by the OHIO Office of Sustainability, including sustainable event programming, living arrangements, procurement and cleaning standards, composting, solid waste diversion, dedicated sustainability staff members, and the addition of sustainability education into its curriculum.

“Ohio University makes sustainability a priority, putting stewardship and conservation into practice across campus, incorporating sustainability into the curriculum and taking the knowledge and methods to other universities and organizations across the country,” Butler said.

OHIO is the first university to receive Platinum-level recognition in the Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program, which recognizes efforts that benefit the local community and surrounding region – it previously earned “Achievement” and “Gold” level recognition.

In March, Sabraw launched a Kickstarter campaign, which surpassed its $30,000 goal the very next month, facilitating the building of a student designed art wall that will enclose the pilot plant. 

For more info., view a photo essay that details the research collaboration.