Help Wanted: Water Watchers in Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Water watchers are wanted in the Buckeye State. With the combined risks to water quality of mining and fracking, particularly in eastern Ohio, experts say the need for citizen scientists to regularly monitor waterways is now more important than ever.
Since last year, the Sierra Club Water Sentinel Program has trained and equipped more than three dozen volunteers to observe water quality in Carroll County alone. Lead water sentinel Paul Feezel, who chairs Carroll County Concerned Citizens, said it's critical work - especially considering that Carroll is the most "fracked" county in the state.
"What happens in the activities around us, whether it be gas and oil drilling, coal mining or even regular industrial activities, can have an impact on our waters," he warned.
States are required to regularly test their waterways under the Clean Water Act, but Ohio lacks the resources to monitor all of its nearly 200,000 miles of rivers and streams. The Water Sentinel Program provides volunteers with water monitoring kits, training and sample analysis. Statewide, there are more than 150 water sentinels.
The program is also working to defend area waters from a pending permit from Rosebud Mining. Water sentinel volunteer Sharon Proudfoot said the mine could potentially pollute streams, groundwater aquifers and private water wells in the county. Rosebud's application is full of errors, she said, and she urged the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to make them start over.
"There are so many mistakes and areas that have lack of information," she said, "and it is in a very dangerous area, with the aquifers being right there. If they should happen to damage the aquifers, that would basically destroy Carroll County's water."
Meanwhile, Feezel said, they are hoping to connect with water monitoring groups in other counties, so they can coordinate their research.
"We want to understand whether there are naturally occurring differences, whether there are trends that are occurring maybe by geographic area due to the particular driller that is working in the area, or whether there are some trends that we're seeing consistently across the entire region," Feezel explained.
Besides possible contamination from toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, threats to Ohio's waters include agricultural runoff, sewer overflow and thermal pollution.
This month, the Aveda Network for Good is raising money to support the Water Sentinel Program. More details are available at http://ohiosierraclub.org.