By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CALIFORNIA, Ky. - If a bluegill coughs and a row of freshwater clams clam up, it may be a sign of contamination in the river.
That's exactly what students and other researchers at Thomas More College's Center for Ohio River Research and Education will be watching for.
The center will become one of a dozen test sites along the Licking, Ohio and Little Miami rivers as well as Mill Creek in a larger water-quality experiment, which the federal Environmental Protection Agency began in 1999.
Over the next five years, the agency will spend about $100,000 annually, including up to $20,000 at the college's field station, which is 17 miles upstream from Cincinnati's riverfront in California, Ky., to monitor both intentional and unintentional water contamination.
"The idea is to develop an early warning system and monitor the quality of the Ohio River," said Joel Allen, an environmental scientist in a Cincinnati-based office of the EPA's national risk management research laboratory.
The high volume of barge traffic on the waterway, coupled with the industry that dots the landscape, make the potential for accidental spills high. And monitoring for that type of contamination can help keep the water safe, researchers said.
But the project has also gained more attention in the post-Sept. 11 climate.
"The project has had its profile elevated because there is the potential application in homeland security," Allen said. "What we hope to accomplish is to demonstrate that these technologies work.
The research at Thomas More's facility will begin after the first of the year.
Nathan Klar, an 18-year-old junior biology major from Edgewood, is one of a handful of Thomas More students who will help with the research.
"During the past two years at Thomas More I've learned so much, but there is a limit to what you can learn in a classroom," he said. "The EPA project sparked my curiosity because it is a chance to do something meaningful in my main area of interest - environmental biology.
"It's an opportunity to finally do some good with what I have learned," he said.
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