by Anna Birk
Residents in Athens county had the opportunity to learn more about sustainability through Pollution Prevention Week, September 16 through September 20.
Wednesday, September 18, Guy Riefler spoke at the first Science Cafe of the year, held in Front Room Coffeehouse.
Guy Riefler is a professor in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology and Chair of Civil Engineering at Ohio University. His presentation at Front Room offered a close look into how he has begun turning water toxins into paint.
“The worst things are invisible,” Riefler said while demonstrating how iron sulfide, or pyrite, often cannot be seen in water until it is oxidized. This oxidation, seen in the water flowing from mining facilities, is known as acid mine drainage.
Riefler recognized acid mine drainage as a large problem surrounding Southeast Ohio and wanted to collect the toxins from the source. In 2011, with the help from John Sabraw, Professor and Chair of Art and Design at OU, the idea to remove the pigment from polluted water was born. The pigment is heated and shipped to companies which use the coloring to produce artist paint.
Riefler is just one of many people in Athens looking for more sustainable ways to maintain water. Teresa Caldwell of the Athens Soil and Water Conservation District set up a water conservation demonstration outside of Baker Center on Thursday, September 19.
The demonstration included a rain barrel and mini-garden set up next to a table with several informational brochures.
“What we try to encourage people to do is to try to find ways to retain that water on your property. So these rain barrels and rain chain that we are showing is another way to beautify a garden area,” Caldwell said.
This is conducted by allowing your downspouts to flow to a rain barrel and through connected tubes, onto your garden by passage of a rain chain. A rain chain can be handmade out of simple metal and offers a steady flow of water. This works by layering the metal pieces over one another to create a waterfall effect. Caldwell also warned about the upcoming fall season, sure to bring many fallen leaves.
“When you rake your lawn, if the leaves go down the storm drain, they go to the Hocking River. You may think it is organic, but if everyone is dumping their leaf clippings down, it has a negative effect on the dissolved oxygen in the river and every critter living in the river needs dissolved oxygen. You are reducing that,” Caldwell said in her closing remarks regarding water waste prevention.
To close out Pollution Prevention Week, the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District and Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers Inc. set up a table outside of Alumni Gate on Friday, September 20. Here, Crissa Cummings of the Recycling Center and Michele Fish of the Solid Waste District displayed acceptable recyclable materials such as aluminum cans and marked plastic containers.
Crissa Cummings, Office Assistant at Athens Recycling, provided examples of wish recycling, or wish-cycling.
“Wish-cycling: we hope it’s recyclable so we throw it in thinking it will get separated out at the sorting facilities. What actually happens is it contaminates all the recycling,” Cummings said. “We used to be able to do plastic bags in mixed recycling but the contamination levels became too high and the manufacturer literally had their product falling apart because of the contamination.”
Contamination levels are so high among certain products, that Cummings recommends to simply throw waste away if you are unsure whether it should be recycled.
Through Pollution Prevention Week, students and residents were able to become more connected with the local community while discovering more about how to protect our planet.