Fracking Study Receives Award

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Industry Tags: Fracking, Research

UC GRO Was Awarded the Ohio Environmental Council’s first-ever Science and Community Award Because of its Innovative Approach to Gathering and Reporting Research Findings

niversity of Cincinnati Assistant Professor Amy Townsend-Small recently shared the stage with former Ohio governors Robert Taft and Ted Strickland when she picked up a state-wide honor for her innovative work testing groundwater in Eastern Ohio.

Townsend-Small, a geology researcher, leads UC GRO (Groundwater Research of Ohio) to study the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on groundwater in the Utica Shale of Ohio. UC GRO was awarded the Ohio Environmental Council’s first-ever Science and Community Award because of its innovative approach to gathering and reporting research findings.

But community connections are not the only innovative elements of UC GRO. Another is the very concept of testing groundwater before fracking begins on land nearby. 

Townsend-Small and her team of graduate and undergraduate researchers, all of whom coincidentally happen to be female, collect samples and test for concentrations of methane, hydrocarbons and salt. While these gases and compounds can be linked to fracking practices, they can also be found organically. Without a clear sense of what the groundwater contained before fracking, residents and natural gas drillers won’t be able to ascertain what impact, if any, fracking itself has.

So far, Townsend-Small said in her acceptance speech at the OEC’s annual Green Gala, the clearest impact of fracking in Eastern Ohio is fear. Residents are concerned about their water and about their air. “I believe every Ohioan has the right to not worry about whether their water or air will make them sick,” Townsend-Small said. 

Because of interest in surrounding communities and counties, UC GRO recently expanded to new testing sites in Belmont, Columbiana, Harrison and Stark counties.

That growth stems, in part, from Townsend-Small’s system of partnering with concerned community members. Community members are so much a part of UC GRO that representatives joined Townsend-Small and her graduate and undergraduate research assistants to accept the award from the Ohio Environmental Council in Columbus.

Source: University of Cincinnati

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