Entangled Citizens

May 2009 – ongoing
Athens, Meigs, Hocking, Perry, Morgan and Muskingam Counties, Ohio


For the last 150 years, vast stretches of Southern Ohio have been mined, leaving an interlocking networks of abandoned and flooded mines just below the ground. These abandoned mines are generating a toxic flow of water that is termed acid mine drainage. Spurse initiated a series of conversations between various local constituencies. Collaboratively, we developed a unique water remediation program to address acid mine drainage.


The first phase of the ongoing Entangled Citizens project was organized around a class taught at the University of Athens Ohio in 2009. The workshop brought together scientists, environmentalists, farmers, artists and cultural workers. These multiple stakeholders generated unique proposals for the treatment of acid mine drainage. From these meetings a series of large-scale grant proposal were authored and research began on a new set of water treatment facilities and cultural programming. The research proposed takes a more efficient approach to water treatment, using an engineered system with a small footprint that continuously turns toxic sludge into a useful product.

In the next phase of this project we hope to test and demonstrate a new treatment technology that will clean these waters, and in the process, produce iron paint pigment for sale. These revenue streams will offset operational costs and make the process itself sustainable and profitable. Additionally, the pigment will be utilized in a number of regional education programs that unite artistic production with a focus on ecological awareness and sustainable energy practices.


Phase one of Entangled Citizens consisted of a series of public conversations and workshops with several different constituencies. These conversations included members of Rural Action, a regional group of independent farmers, forestry officials, environmental engineers, journalists and artists. Using systems theory, the participants produced a series of diagrams that found a common way forward that balances policy, financial interests, practicality, public health needs, ecosystem care, and water supply. The research generated from this process was used to apply for several National Science Foundation grants.


Rural Action
Sunday Creek Watershed Group
Little Cities of Black Diamond
Dr. Guy Riefler, Environmental Engineer
Ohio University School of Art

"What does it mean to be a citizen? To whom is this invitation extended? Do we envision citizens as autonomous units, or networks of relations? What practices can we develop that would allow these distributed networks to speak? This is not an abstract question or an academic exercise -- the type of problems that face us today as exemplified by acid mine drainage require new forms of thinking that rethink our very ideas of citizenship. And the results of the first round of this project show the very concrete benefits of such rethinkings." - Matthew Friday, Project Coordinator