John Stolz is a Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University. He has studied climate change, energy, and sustainability, with degrees from Fordham University (BS) and Boston University (PhD) and postdoctoral experience at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and University of Massachusetts. Working diligently to protect our water resources and promote renewable energy, his research helped get arsenic out of chicken feed, and provides free well water testing for communities with shale gas drilling. He has lived in Glenshaw with his wife Donna since 1994.
I was born in Queens, NY and grew up on Long Island, the son of a self employed music teacher (American Federation of Musicians Local 802). It was my mother, a bookkeeper, who taught me about fiscal responsibility and balancing a checkbook. While a freshman at Fordham University, I participated in the last draft lottery for the Vietnam War, but was not called to serve. After finishing my degree in biology I moved to Boston for my graduate studies. That was followed by two years in Pasadena CA working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and then back to Massachusetts where I lived in the oldest farmhouse in Hadley. My wife and I moved to Pittsburgh in 1990, when I joined the faculty at Duquesne University. We’ve lived in Glenshaw since 1994 where we’ve raised our daughter and son.
I support our economy by visiting the area butcher to buy organic and locally-sourced meats. Then, I head over to Harvest Valley Farms to buy my produce and talk with Larry and Norma.
Let me introduce you to Pam and Jack. Pam is a professor of geology at the University of Miami and Jack is now retired after a career of marine biology at the same institution. They built a research lab on a small island in the Bahamas, Little Darby. What is so special about the lab is that it is totally self-sufficient. It has a composting toilet, catches rain water to fill a cistern, and is powered by solar. Although they have a diesel generator, just in case, it’s rarely used, if ever, because they have enough solar power to charge the lead-acid battery bank (about the size of a captain’s chest). The secret is that five years ago they replaced most of the 110Volt AC appliances with 12 and 24V DC appliances. That included a full sized chest freezer and refrigerator. Getting rid of the 110Volt AC refrigerator dropped their energy needs significantly. The lights, the fans, and their computers are also run off the DC grid in the house.
I leased my solar panels from Solar City back in January of 2017. The panels were installed in an afternoon after several visits to design a system and check the suitability of my roof. Duquesne Light installed a smart meter several weeks later, and I was up and running. Since then, I continue to be charged a servicing fee by Duquesne, and since a leased my panels (no money down), I’m paying 12 cents for each kilowatt/hour I produce.
The process of horizontal drilling and fracking is remarkable technology. It can produce a lot of gas very quickly. It’s revolutionized how we produce natural gas and oil in the country, and it has returned us to being a major player in the global energy market. But something isn’t right. Since 2004, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has received over 9,400 complaints. Thousands of Pennsylvanians have lost their sole source of water, and their property values have evaporated. I have personally visiting families and farms in western Pennsylvania and the northern tier (Tioga and Bradford Counties) as well as countless other places in Ohio and West Virginia, to hear peoples stories. My lab has tested over 1,200 water samples and provided hundreds of people with independent water tests.
Local Farms – Arsenic and Chickens
I started working on arsenic in an extreme environment, Mono Lake in northern California. The water in the lake is toxic with the only signs of life brine shrimp and brine flies. I soon found out that arsenic was causing a bigger problem around the world with more than 30 million people drinking unsafe water. Closer to home I discovered that arsenic was used in wood treatment and being fed to chickens. Farmers didn’t know there was arsenic in the chicken feed because of the labeling. My lab discovered that the arsenic compound, which was thought to be safe, could be broken down by the microbes in the chicken litter, making it more toxic. The farmers were being exposed, it was ending up the chicken meat, and it was poisoning the soil. When we first published our work in 2007, the poultry industry said it stopped using the product. In reality they started using a similar chemical that still had arsenic. The FDA, unbeknownst to me, decided to yank the licensing based in part on questions raised by our paper and a follow up 2008 paper by a colleague. We had gotten the arsenic out of the chickens.
More to come soon,
Dr. John Stolz