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DeWine visits BGSU for H2Ohio research

DeWine H2Ohio (1) – Photo by Megan Finke

On April 5, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine made a visit to BGSU to discuss the H2Ohio Project in the northwest Ohio area. 

DeWine launched H2Ohio in 2019, creating a comprehensive, data-driven tool to improve water quality throughout the state. 

This program focuses on reducing harmful algal blooms, improving wastewater infrastructure and preventing lead contamination. It also encourages better management practices, restoring and enhancing wetlands and replacing home septic systems in order to reduce nutrients that contribute to harmful blooms. One of its goals is to build new wetlands across the state; they have already established over 80.

According to BGSU President Rodney Rogers, in 2013 the university received $20 million for water research which has helped fund H2Ohio research. The biology and environmental science departments hold one of the largest student populations with over 1,000 majoring in either topic and over 80 faculty and assistant faculty members. 

DeWine spoke about identifying the algal bloom problem while he was running for governor and wanted to take action, so H2Ohio was created. After his election, meetings were held to, “talk about how we are going to approach this problem and how we’re going to try to balance the fact that in Northwest Ohio… agriculture is a major major industry.”

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There were four stations set up for DeWine to walk around and learn what students and researchers are working on. The first station used novel technology to identify toxins in water and measure its status. DeWine got to partake in a hands-on experience, in which he found that the water measured did in fact have toxins. 

Another station had a model which exemplified the watershed, where the water went and how it impacted the space within. It allowed researchers to determine areas of improvement and study water movement, simulating precipitation through a spray bottle and wastewater run-off with a brown liquid. 

A hydrogel activity was held at the third station where an experiment was conducted to see how different nutrients were absorbed. 

The final station displayed BGSU student Kate Lochridge’s honor project. She created seven different pieces of art, using algal blooms to add color. Each piece tells a story of a particular type of impact algal blooms has on an area.

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“The research that you all are doing, so that’s paid for by the federal government and the state, but Bowling Green was involved in designing a plan, Bowling Green is now very much involved as we execute this plan and continue to monitor and see how we’re doing,” DeWine said.

DeWine explained how he and his team had to work with legislation to get funding. H2Ohio initially took $250 million but requested about $1.4 billion. 

“That kind of gives you an idea of what the demand is out there,” DeWine said.

Ohio has plenty of water with Lake Erie bordering the northern side of the state and the Ohio river running across the south, but DeWine says it is important that we take care of what we have.

“Over time, we also are dealing with local communities that simply cannot afford a sewer system and so it means maybe septic tanks are no longer working very well. It could be with bedrock that is there and it never has worked very well,” DeWine said. “All of these things contribute to profit, health problems and contribute to things that impact the quality of life. I will say this in the last few years we’ve made by far the biggest investment that’s ever been made in the industry.”

H2Ohio is in it’s fourth year of existence and has been committed to research across the state to ensure the water quality is kept safe.

“We have a ways to go to finish the first 10-year plan in regard to H2Ohio and Lake Erie. We continue to monitor that, to find out what the results are. We have ways to go in getting money out to local communities so they can fix their sewers so they make sure that they have clean water,” DeWine said. 

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