margaret dunn helping with PA conservation history

Margaret H. Dunn

When someone has an award named after them, you can be sure they have made a significant contribution to their field and Margaret Dunn certainly fills that bill. A geologist by training and education, Margaret became a champion in the restoration and reclamation of disturbed mining lands through the creation of a simple filtration system that used no electricity and required little maintenance. Working with the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition, Margaret and her crew (according to a 2008 Sierra Club article): “construct[s] a collection system at the source of the drainage; the runoff is diverted through several ponds containing mushroom compost and limestone to neutralize acidity and remove metals. So far [as of 2008], the group has installed 15 systems treating 750 million gallons of mine drainage a year, and fish now thrive in 11 miles of previously lifeless streams.

“The coalition’s work took an unexpected turn when Dunn discovered that two plentiful byproducts of the passive treatment process, manganese and iron oxide, could be used as a pottery glaze. The group contacted local potter Robert Isenberg, who warmed to the idea of creating mugs glazed with the recovered elements. “The iron ore creates a transparent yellow glaze,” Isenberg said, “and the manganese gives off rich earth tones.” A coalition volunteer who dropped in for a pint at the North Country Brewing Company came away with an order for 300 of the mugs; now the group sells the pottery to help finance additional restoration work.”

A profile by the Allegheny Front radio program explores this wonderful idea in depth:

Margaret has been a pioneer in the reclamation and restoration of drastically disturbed mining lands. In order to work on these projects, she co-founded the for-profit company BioMost, Inc., as well as the nonprofit group Stream Restoration Incorporated.  Through these organizations and numerous other volunteer groups which she supports, over the last few decades Margaret has improved land and waterscapes across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and beyond. These projects have almost exclusively been in economically depressed former mining areas, where degraded environments limit revitalization efforts. Margaret and her colleagues have improved the environment and quality of life, community by community. 

And thus in 2017 was born the “Margaret H. Dunn Environmental Community Service Award” at Saint Francis University’s Center for Watershed Research & Service. The award honors the graduating senior that best exemplifies Margaret’s spirit of selfless environmental community service.