John Potts, 75, of Clearfield, spent more than two decades protecting local watersheds and was recently recognized by the Clearfield County Conservation District for his work.
Potts has been a member of the Clearfield County Senior Environmental Corps since 1998 and was recently recently awarded the Watershed Stewardship Award by the Clearfield County Conservation District at their annual banquet.
“There were many people just as deserving of the award, including my wife (Nancy),” he said.
Potts is a retired electrical supervisor at the Shawville Power Plant and said he joined the senior environmental corps in 1998 after seeing an ad in The Progress.
However, one has to be 55 years old to be a member and at that time he was still a couple months too young. So he and his wife, Nancy, had to wait a few months before joining the senior environmental corps.
As a member of the corps, his main interest is conducting water quality testing of various waterways in the area and checking for pollution.
They used several methods for checking water quality. Sometimes they would collect water samples for the Department of Environmental Protection for laboratory testing for biological studies looking for E. coli, various bacteria, etc.
They would also bring kits in the field to test for acidity/alkalinity, phosphates, sulphates, etc., as well as water conductivity.
Water conductivity tests involve running electrical current through the water and this measures the amount of heavy metals in the stream, Potts said.
This entailed placing two probes in the stream itself but sometimes they would take a sample from the stream to do the test.
“Sometimes when it was 20 degrees out we would put the water in a beaker and test it,” Potts said.
He said they would do perform testing several times a week.
“It was interesting and once you began to understand the chemistry behind it, it became even more interesting,” Potts said.
He said the testing is important because many local streams have been impacted by old mining operations.
Potts said natural gas well drilling can also impact local waterways. Once — several years ago as a member of the Senior Environmental Corps — they discovered that a gas well drilling operation contaminated a local spring and sections of a couple of small streams in the Reynoldsville area. The incident was reported to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and as a result, the gas company had to provide water to residents until the contamination passed.
“I’m not against gas well drilling, they just need to do it right,” Potts said.
He said the conservation district and local watershed groups have made significant progress in cleaning up acid mine drainage.
“The conservation district really does a very good job,” Potts said.
In addition to the stream testing, the Senior Environmental Corps will also from time to time participate in cleaning up trash, clear trails, etc.
Potts said he doesn’t know how long he will be a member of the Senior Environmental Corps — as he doesn’t know how long his health will force him to quit.
“But it hasn’t happened yet,” Potts said.
He and his wife Nancy have two sons, David and Dan and two daughters, Susan Mikesell and Rebecca Brickley.
For more information on the Senior Environmental Corps, contact the Clearfield County Conservation District at 765-2629.