Ben McCament


Acid Mine Drainage and Mine Forfeiture Program, Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mineral Resources Management

MSES ’04

If you live in eastern or southeastern Ohio, you may live near a stream of battery acid.

When coal is mined underground, pumps run constantly to keep subsurface water from flooding the mine. When the mine is closed, the pumps stop and the water held at bay flows freely. It picks up iron from pyrite in the mine’s soil and flows out of the mine into nearby streams. A chemical reaction with air turns the metals in the water into sulfuric acid — the same stuff in drain cleaner and batteries.

Some 1,300 miles of streams in eastern and southeastern Ohio are affected by acid mine drainage, a legacy of that region’s coal mining operations. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mineral Resources Management not only holds mine operators responsible for the pollution, but also studies those streams to find new and better ways to bring them back to life.

The leader of the Acid Mine Drainage and Mine Forfeiture program is Ben McCament, a 2004 graduate of the master of science of environmental studies program at Ohio University.

In fact, McCament got his start with acid mine drainage while in graduate school, working with the local watershed management organizations.

“Although my focus was in earth sciences, I was given the flexibility to take courses that were relative to my interests in watershed management and aquatic ecology,” McCament said. “Since watershed management is interdisciplinary by definition, this flexibility was critical to advancing my understanding of the field.”

He also appreciates the guidance offered by his advisor, Mary Stoertz. “She instilled a sense of purpose for research and community outreach,” he said. “She served as a great example of how the scientific community can apply their research to projects that improve the environment and the community.”

After graduation, McCament worked as a watershed coordinator for the Raccoon Creek Partnership , which partners with the public and with local, state, and federal agencies to restore and conserve the 683-square-mile Raccoon Creek watershed in southeast Ohio.

“I was very interested in the partnership approach of the work and the dedication of the people involved in the field and wanted to work in the field post-graduation,” McCament said.

His work with Raccoon Creek led him to Columbus and ODNR, a career trajectory he credits to his experiences in the Voinovich School.

“The Environmental Studies program offers students the opportunity to gain a tremendous amount of experience along with their education that will ultimately help them in their career goals,” he said. “The program is good at exposing students to the inherent interdisciplinary nature of environmental work.”

Of course, it helps to have a passion for the subject. McCament does, and he encourages all environmental studies students to feel the same way about their research.

“Be passionate about your studies, research, and the field you have chosen,” he said.

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