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Civil engineering professor, local collaborator receive state water management award

Rylie Miller | Nov 4, 2019
EPA Award

Civil engineering professor, local collaborator receive state water management award

Rylie Miller | Nov 4, 2019

The Water Management Association of Ohio (WMAO) will recognize Ohio University Civil Engineering Chair and Professor Guy Riefler, and Sunday Creek Watershed Coordinator Michelle Shively of Rural Action, next week with its distinguished service award for their effort to clean up water pollution in Southeast Ohio.

Given annually, the award honors a noteworthy endeavor to improve water resources or their use in the state. Riefler and Shively have partnered to remediate acid mine drainage as part of a decade-long partnership with Drawing and Painting Chair John Sabraw of OHIO’s School of Art and Design. Their work has improved water quality and led to the development of artist paint pigments based on the iron oxide leftover from the remediation process. They also have collaborated to develop a pilot-scale plant in Perry County, a project they’re now working to bring full scale thanks to a recent multi-million dollar grant.

Director of Sustainability Elaine Goetz, who was the nominator, said the local impact of the work is great.

“The process, proven through pilot-scale treatment and recently awarded a multi-million dollar grant for full-scale implementation, will create jobs and better quality of life for the people in this region,” Goetz said. “One day, this Appalachian paint could be a point of pride for the entire region.”

Riefler has been working to improve the quality of water in Appalachian Ohio for the last 20 years. Also an accomplished educator, he has performed extensive research on ways to not only improve water quality, but how to improve the economic structure of the community as well.

“Since I was a young college student, I decided I would devote my career to cleaning up pollution, so this award means a lot to me,” Riefler said. 

At Rural Action, Shively generates awareness and methods to improve practices and clean regional waterways. Thanks to her work, fish have returned to once mine-polluted areas.

The WMAO award will be presented on Wed., Nov. 13, at the WMAO Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.