Establishing a Low-Cost, Sustainable Environmental Monitoring Program

Barnesville, Ohio

Featured image for the project, Establishing a Low-Cost, Sustainable Environmental Monitoring Program

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons


Barnesville is a small town located in the Southwest portion of Belmont County, Ohio. The landscape is dominated by farmland and back country roads.


The 5,000 people living in the town have few economic opportunities and those with medium to high paying jobs are reliant on the local coal industry. Recent development of unconventional natural gas infrastructure has brought opportunity for some and fear for others.  Many large landowners have benefited from the leases held with the natural gas companies. However, these new-found income sources have many concerned about the local environmental and health impacts.


A number of incidents have highlighted the risks associated with the oil and gas operations in Barnesville. A trucking accident resulted in the spilling of 5,000 gallons of fracking fluid into the Barnesville reservoir, ending in the shutdown of the town’s water main reservoir for months. The reservoirs also suffered from significant water pumping causing a severe depletion of the local drinking water source. Air quality has also arisen as a point of concern with local medical providers noting a rise in respiratory health issues. Another health concern is the growing level of radiation appearing in water, soil and air. The cumulative threats to and from water, air, and radiation have led to significant fear in the community.


John Stolz will work to establish a baseline of water data available from a partner organization. He will compile that water testing information and assist in the creation of an action plan for the community to take part in.  This “Action plan” would institute regular water testing that is deemed relevant to the impacts of natural gas drilling as well as the creation of a database in which to store this information.


In conjunction with water testing, Stolz would assist Jill Hunkler in providing residents of Barnesville with scientifically accurate information about the risks of unconventional natural gas drilling.


Ideally, Stolz can help establish a low-cost, sustainable environmental monitoring program for Barnesville.  


Jill Hunkler will serve as the main contact and will serve as the community lead. She will be supported by a pre-established coalition of local residents (maintained through an active social media presence). Jill has already established a robust network of local leaders and residents in Barnesville that can be brought into future meetings.


May 2019 Notes from the Field: Barnesville, OH

By Jill Antares Hunkler

On April 22, 2019, Earth Day, the Barnesville, Ohio Thriving Earth Exchange team spent the day in the field in SE Ohio and were joined by Ted Auch of FracTracker Alliance. Water samples were taken at Cat’s Run, upstream and downstream of the Schnegg well pad, where last year’s blowout occurred, and Captina Creek (both at the confluence with Cat’s Run and further upstream).  We were fortunate to site a bald eagle resting near its nest on the banks of Captina Creek. We were also thrilled to find abundant salamanders in Cat’s Run upstream of the Schnegg site.

We then traveled to Dillies Bottom and did reconnaissance of the proposed PTT Global Petrochemical Processing (ethane cracker) plant site.  We were dismayed to find workers on site with evidence of tree cutting and land clearance despite the fact the no final investment decision has been made.

Next, we went to the Austin Masters fracking waste processing facility in Martins Ferry, Ohio.  It is a facility that treats radioactive waste from the fracking operations and located less than a ½ mile from the Martins Ferry High school football field.

We spent the remainder of the day documenting subsidence and erosion at numerous pipelines as well as new fracking infrastructure. The latter included seeing a well pad being built next a daycare facility in the St. Clairsville area.

In the last few weeks, the Barnesville Thriving Earth Exchange Project has been interviewed by journalists from Rolling Stone Magazine and Yahoo News. We also continued our educational outreach to the local communities in Ohio and Southwestern Pennsylvania with a visit to Beaver PA where another ethane cracker plant is currently under construction.

Barnesville, OH Water Sampling – 11 October 2018

Barnesville, OH submits joint proposal and holds joint community meeting

All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Lead

JIll Antares Hunkler is a teacher, artist, writer, environmental activist, and grassroots organizer. She educates the public about the threats we face due to the polluting and destructive oil and gas industry. She has helped empower people in her community in Ohio to stand up for their rights for a healthy environment. Together they have been successful in their protective campaigns. Her mission to promote clean energy solutions and a healthy and protected Mother Earth for current and future generations. For further information visit Jill’s website:


Scientific Lead

John Stolz is Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education; Professor, Environmental Microbiology Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences Department of Biological Sciences; Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. John is interested in both fundamental questions in microbial ecology as well as the application of unique microbial species for bioremediation. There are three major areas of interest in his lab:1) the ecophysiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology of dissimilatory metal reducing bacteria, 2) the ecophysiology of phototrophic prokaryotes and 3) the environmental impacts and microbiology of unconventional shale gas extraction. John has a Ph.D. in Biology from Boston University.

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of Thriving Earth Exchange’s new cohorts.  Thriving Earth has partnered with AGU’s GeoPolicy Connect in 2017 to bring community leaders from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania affected by ongoing hydraulic fracturing together with scientists and policymakers. Thriving Earth is working with three local community groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better understand and cope with the effects of hydraulic fracturing.