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.


Barnesville, OH Water Sampling – 11 October 2018

As part of the American Geophysical Union’s Barnesville, Ohio Thriving Earth Exchange project, water sampling was conducted on two of the most pristine waterways in the state, Captina Creek and Cat’s Run. Dr. John Stolz, Director, Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, is the Scientific lead for this project. He and his graduate student team (Brittany Garman and Dannielle Pratt) conducted the sampling. They were guided by Community Lead, Jill Hunkler. The sampling included sites on Cat’s Run upstream and downstream of the Schnegg well pad in Belmont County, where a well blowout occurred earlier in the year.

Sampling was also conducted at sites on Captina Creek and at its confluence with Cat’s Run. Analysis on site, done with a YSI multimeter, determined levels of dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and specific conductivity. It was noted that water temperatures were between 19.1 – 20oC, but specific conductivity (303.1-420.6 micro Siemens/cm) indicated low total dissolved solids (TDS) of 197-273.4 mg/L. Further testing will be done for 7 salts (anions) and 31 metals (cations).

Barnesville, OH submits joint proposal and holds joint community meeting

Salt Fork State Park Barnesville-Cambridge, OH Joint Conference – April 28, 2018

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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 TEX’s new cohorts.  TEX 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. TEX 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.