McDonald’s Bags, Beer Cans, and Acid Mine Drainage

Driving down those dusty old back roads, what would you expect to see? Mcdonalds bags? Beer cans? Trash? Well here in Southeastern Ohio, we see all those things, along with some lovely (not) Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). The waters in and some places around Perry State Forest run a bright orange color as the result of mining that took place pre-1960. 

Before 1977, miners could come in and tear up the land, without taking any precautions simply because there was no law telling them they had to. When they were finished mining, that was it. They packed up and left. In 1977 the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act  (SMCRA) was passed that basically said companies had to take precautions to protect as much of the environment as they could and that they had to reclaim the land when they were finished mining. 

This photo was taken along the side of Number 8 Hollow Road in New Lexington. The runoff from the forest is running bright orange along the side of the road and has as long as I can remember. 

This is just a few feet from where the previous photo was taken. This shows a large pool of water standing along the road.

In the forest pictured beside the road, the water has stained the trees for up to 3 or 4 feet of their trunks from where the water has risen and fell over the years. 

Pictured above is Essington Lake located on NR 3 in New Lexington. As you can see lookonf all around the edges of the lake, they are orange. This is a big a beautiful lake that would be perfect for fishing and picnicking. Except the fact that there are no, and cannot be any, fish in this water body. The dissolved oxygen levels are so low due to the acid mine drainage (AMD), that fish cannot survive. 

This photo was taken standing on a culvert on the edge of Essington Lake. The water looks like orange Kool-Aid and the soil is stained to match. 

It’s sad to see such nice land be so polluted from people of the past. If you’re driving through any cities with a coal history, and you see the waters running orange or red, put up your middle finger and say, “Thanks miners pre 1977.”

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How I started college, then stopped, then started, then stopped… then started… and now want to start over again. 

Okay so if you’re reading this and you’re in high school, I just want to tell you that it’s totally okay if you have absolutely no idea what you want to do after you graduate. For some, maybe it’s work, for others: college, or maybe you just won’t do anything. You do you. But do not let anyone, and I mean ANYONE tell you you HAVE to do something if you aren’t ready.
This wasn’t necessarily my case. I graduated high school in May of 2014. I had applied and had been accepted into an Optometry degree program at a 2 year college, but thought, “Meh, what am I doing?” I got myself out of that before it could even start. I decided maybe I’ll give working a try instead. So that July, I was enrolled and starting an STNA program for 2 weeks. Needless to say, that failed. But not a complete train wreck failure. Just a small little baby failure. A fail-let if you will. So fast forward, I worked for 4 months with my certificate as a nurses aid, but couldn’t pass my test. Loved the work, loved my job, but for some reason, I could never get the hand washing skill down correctly. Total bullshit if I do say so myself because for one, we wear gloves for literally everything, and two, I passed every other skill without a problem. As you can tell I’m still lightly salted over that. (It happened twice). 

So fast forward, I’m working as an activities aid in the same nursing home I was a nurses aid in, and my supervisor was not very nice to me. After 6 months, I said “hey see ya”.  This led me to JC Penney where I worked part time for minimum wage, an hour away from home as a sales associate. Obviously not ideal, but I had a plan. I began work in May of 2015, and that Fall had plans to start a degree program for Sports and Fitness Management (SFMT). Well as it turned out, I couldn’t work AND go to school. So I chose school. And Lord have mercy was that a disaster in itself. 

So here I am: Autumn 2015. New school, new experience. I get in this room where everyone in the SFMT program went to meet our advisor and what not. Well, lucky me, turns out I was the only female in the entire group. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE fitness, and would have loved a job in the industry. But on the other hand, I hate sports. Seriously. Motocross is as far as I get. So when we got deep into classes, a ton of it was centered around sports and coaching teams and coaching athletes and I was like nahhhh. Plus being the only girl in a class full of men who are pretty physically fit was not ideal. I felt singled out and pretty insecure. After one year and a ton of anxiety ridden days full of presentations and being put on the spot with the reasoning from my instructor being, “As a coach you’ll be up in front of a big group team, better get used to it”, it just didn’t work out. 

Immediately that summer of 2016 I knew I needed something. I couldn’t just sit around. So I juggled a full time 40 hour job working 3rd shift, along with an average of 20-30 hours of mandatory overtime every week, with taking online classes to study Information Assurance and Security Strategies. LOL@MYLIFE. I took the first recommended 4 classes and failed 2 of them. My GPA dropped to a whopping 1.4. As you can guess: I quit that too, along with the stressful job. (It was a direct care position in a home for men with developmental disabilities).

My current situation (finally). Fall 2016 rolls around. I am at a completely new college where I am currently the Secretary of Phi Theta Kappa (the National Honor Society for community colleges) as well as the President of the campus Geology Club. (Which is super odd because I actually hate my Geo classes). I am enrolled in a program called GeoEnvironmental Science, which is a mix of Geology and Environmental Science. It’s been one full year and I can honestly say I’m still f*#%ed when it comes to knowing what I want to do. I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to grow up and be on my own with my man, so that in mind I am going to complete this degree. I’m currently doing an unpaid (ugh) summer internship totaling 120 hours with the local Soil and Water Conservation District. So far its not paid off at all. I’ve gotten zero experience and am getting more and more turned of of this field as it goes on. But who knows whats going to happen. I change my mind like I change my clothes: once a month. Just kidding. But seriously. 

There is a super small branch of a local (an hour away) community college in my town, and they are starting a Dental Hygiene program in Fall 2018, which is the semester after I’ll graduate with my GENV Science degree. I’m tossing around the idea of working with my degree, but taking dental classes on the side as well and paying as I go. I just feel like I would benefit so much more, and the jobs would be so much easier to come by. Currently, I have no idea what I’ll do or what I’d even like to do with my degree I’m working towards. I have always wanted to do dental but the opportunity was never close enough. Maybe this is what I need? Maybe this is how it was supposed to happen? I’m not sure, but hopefully it works itself out in the next couple years. 

So the moral of this if you actually took the time to read it all, is that if you don’t have a plan: Don‘t worry! Just go with the flow and do what feels right. What feels right this year might not feel so great next year, and that’s okay. 

3 years, 4 degrees, and $12,000 in debt later, I can honestly say I still have no idea where I’ll be in the next few years. And I’m okay with that.