Troubled Water

On a Saturday morning, a couple drives to a local spring off Route 78, where a concrete slab with a group of three pipes protruding from a hillside spills water into another concrete tub.  

The Franks, Josh and Cheyenne, love the Buchtel Watering Hole, and they come to the spring once a week.  

“I’ve been drinking this water since I first moved here when I was like eight years old,” Josh says.  

Each year, more than 1,000 people visit this area, George Addis, Buchtel City Councilmember says. While this is a source of water for many, the Athens City-County Health Department cannot recommend the use of the spring.  

“I cannot comment on whether it’s a good or bad water source,” says Jack Pepper, administrator of the Athens City-County Health. “All I can tell you that is because it is unapproved, it hasn’t gone through the regulatory process to ensure that it’s safe.”  

Pepper says he hopes the owner of the spring will go through the regulatory process of testing the water, but because the water is on private property, the health department can’t do much besides recommending not to drink the water.  

Another reason the Perry Tribune said the water source has not been tested is because of the way the trough and lake was constructed, a test could go from negative to positive in a matter of one rain storm.  

While the health department says they were unsure who the owner of the spring is, the Perry Tribune said the water that runs from an underground lake is owned by a Nelsonville resident, Jack Oakley. 

 But, the Tribune says the trough, itself, is on public land. Addis said he believes the lake originally came from an old coal mine. But, according to the Perry Tribune, the lake was used to move supplies to the mine.  

Legend has it that the hoof prints of the donkeys that pulled the mine carts are still visible inside. listed a test they had done that said the water was in the 300 range. According to the Safe Drinking Water Foundation, this is considered safe.  

Because the stream originates from a coal mine, according to Addis, he says it may have sulfur. But, the Tribune says there is no recorded sulfur in the lake or pipes.  

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, there is no danger associated with low amounts of contact with sulfur. However, in large doses, diarrhea or a burning sensation may occur. 

Addis says he drinks the water every day, and another patron chimed in, “That’s why he’s so old.”   

Addis says a lot of Buchtel residents use this as their main source of water.   

“A lot of people really depend on this watering trough,” Addis says. “If it wasn’t for the watering trough, I don’t know what a lot of these people would do.”   

Some residents have wells, Addis says, but those can go dry in the summers and during droughts. 

“It is the best water in this part of the country,” Addis says.


Southeast Ohio strives to spotlight the culture and community within our 21-county region and aims to inform, entertain and inspire readers with stories that hit close to home. Southeast Ohio is the first student-produced regional magazine in the country. Every semester, approximately 25 students enrolled in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism produce an issue of the magazine, which is published in print twice a year. The staff generates story ideas, conducts interviews, writes stories and designs the magazine in only 15 weeks. The magazine has won several Regional Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.