I’m a doer by nature. So after I was warmly welcomed to the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in Walter Rotunda about a month ago, I was pretty certain I was in the right place.
Dr. Mark Weinberg, the founder and current Director of the Voinovich School, gave a compelling speech about how the interdisciplinary School views itself as a “do-tank.” I think this philosophy is what makes the Voinovich School so unique on Ohio University’s campus and such a valuable resource for the region and state.
Being someone inclined to get things done, I am typically very productive. This is a beneficial trait, although sometimes I do rush into things before fully thinking them through, causing myself more work. Certainly there needs to be a balance. But I think overall, institutions of higher education should take more of a proactive role in shaping their communities for the better.
Let me provide an example of how projects at the Voinovich School have made the state of Ohio a better place, and how it might not have had the same benefits if done in a more typical fashion.
Currently, the Consortium for Energy, Economics, and the Environment (CE3), a part of the Voinovich School, is working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) on a Nonpoint Source (NPS) project, evaluating acid mine drainage projects in watersheds throughout the state. Staff, faculty, and students have been monitoring stream mile recovery, acid load reductions, and project costs.
I am most familiar with the efforts to clean up Raccoon Creek. Raccoon Creek is a 683.5 square mile watershed that has been ravaged by acid mine drainage. It spans six counties, including Athens. Back in the 1980s it was considered a “dead stream,” and fish could not survive the harsh, acidic conditions. The Voinovich School has been installing dosers to neutralize the heavy metals in the water to lower its acidity, with impressive results. In 2011, the dosers removed 5,414 pounds of acid a day in the stream. 103 of the 117 miles monitored met the pH target, up from a baseline of 61 miles in 2001.
You can read more about the successes of Racoon Creek here:
CE3 is also working on cleaning up Huff Run, a smaller watershed in the northeast part of the state. Staff, students, and faculty are doing research in this watershed that they hope to use to create a recovery model. Other coal-bearing regions will be able to apply this model in similar watershed cleanup efforts. As a result, this research will be published in the appropriate academic journals and applied for beneficial use.
A typical institution might be satisfied with their contribution to the scientific literature, leaving it for others to apply it as they see fit. But the Voinovich School doesn’t stop there, and that’s what makes it special. By cleaning up watersheds in the state, Ohio residents now have cleaner drinking water, can fish again in their streams, and have healthier water to enjoy for recreational use. And by creating a model for others to use, people across the country will also benefit.