How U.S. metal foundries can save $40 million a year

New OARDC research will benefit businesses like Columbus Castings, shown here, say OARDC’s Nicholas Basta, left, and the Ohio Cast Metals Association’s Russ Murray, right. (Photo: Ken Chamberlain, CFAES.)

New OARDC research will benefit businesses like Columbus Castings, shown here, say OARDC’s Nicholas Basta, left, and the Ohio Cast Metals Association’s Russ Murray, right. (Photo: Ken Chamberlain, CFAES.)

What to do with 10 million tons of sand every year that would otherwise go in a landfill? Use it to grow plants and industry.

Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center scientists Nicholas Basta and Elizabeth Dayton worked in tandem with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do detailed testing of spent foundry sand for such toxins as heavy metals. The sand is a byproduct of the metal casting industry.

Their findings fed into a risk assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The assessment determined that spent foundry sand, when put back to use in some soil applications, is safe for people’s health and the environment. The finding applies only to silica sand from aluminum, iron and steel foundries.

The work has opened new business doors. Ohio’s green industry now can manufacture and market new soil mixes using the sand. And the state’s many metal casting foundries can reduce their landfilling costs, save money and stay competitive.

“Based on this research, Ohio EPA is developing new rules for beneficially reusing spent foundry sand,” said Russ Murray, executive director of the Ohio Cast Metals Association. “We’re confident these rules will provide opportunities for Ohio foundries to significantly reduce their disposal costs for the sand. This should make these foundries more competitive.”


  • Ohio is the No. 1 metal casting state in the nation. Its 200-plus foundries provide 22,000 jobs and produce metal castings for products such as cars, trucks, tractors, turbines, aircraft and appliances.
  • Reusing 10 percent of the 10 million tons of spent foundry sand sent to landfills every year can save U.S. foundries about $40 million annually. That’s based on an average disposal cost of $40 a ton.
  • The potential savings for Ohio and U.S. foundries will be a leg up in an increasingly competitive international market.
  • Reusing spent foundry sand will also create new businesses and jobs. These businesses and jobs will be based on using spent foundry sand to make new soil blends and soil substitutes.

Read more about this research here.

OSU Extension helps communities prepare for shale-related impacts


Shale workers keep area hotels filled to capacity. While that’s an economic boost, leaders like Norm Blanchard work to minimize the drawback of potential tourists being turned away.

In 2010, Guernsey County’s unemployment rate was 14.7 percent. Thanks to shale development, it tumbled to 5.7 percent by May 2014.

That’s all well and good, but the shale-related boom has other implications.

“A gas and oil guy from Midland, Texas, came to speak and told us to be prepared for our population to grow from about 11,500 to 100,000 in the next 15 years — at least, that’s what happened in Midland,” said Norm Blanchard, president of the Cambridge-Guernsey County Community Improvement Corporation. “When that hit the newspaper, we got calls. What are we doing to plan for this? How would we handle that kind of growth?” On the flip side, how should the region prepare for when shale development declines?

To help, Ohio State University Extension is tapping a $200,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to work with four regional EDA offices representing 25 eastern Ohio counties. Together they are examining shale’s economic, social and environmental impacts and developing plans for sustainable development.


The OSU Extension project is:

  • gathering and analyzing volumes of data to track the area’s economic, social and environmental conditions, including measurements on employment, population, income, charitable giving, school enrollment, crime, housing, noise, traffic counts, air quality, and water quantity and quality.
  • examining the growth and contraction of specific industry segments. This will allow targeted actions to help local businesses adjust when the active shale construction phase ends.
  • identifying sectors that need local investment. In some areas, the focus might be on infrastructure; others might zero in on housing, community amenities, entrepreneurship or workforce training.
  • working with regional EDA offices to foster long-term planning across community and county lines.
  • piloting educational materials in Guernsey County, thanks to another $20,000 grant. Community leaders across the Midwest will be able to use the materials to incorporate shale development into their strategic planning.

“OSU Extension is not only giving us guidance, but they’ve been in touch with other states that have already been through shale development, and they’re providing us with that experience and expertise,” Blanchard said.  “It’s been invaluable.”


Serving, growing Ohio’s grape and wine industry

Nick Ferrante checks his vineyards in Ashtabula County. The winter of 2013-14 devastated his crop. But OARDC research offers hope for recovery.

Nick Ferrante checks his vineyards in Ashtabula County. The winter of 2013-14 devastated his crop. But OARDC research offers hope for recovery.

The “polar vortex” winter of 2013–2014 hit Ohio’s wine grapes hard. Nick Ferrante knows it. The owner of Geneva’s Ferrante Winery lost his entire 2014 vinifera crop. And he wasn’t alone. Ohio grape growers estimated their vinifera losses at 97 percent, and officials expected damage to all the state’s grape varieties to top $12 million. Vinifera, or European, grapes go into such wines as Chardonnay.

“This was probably the worst grape damage on record in Ohio,” said Imed Dami, who works to help growers recover from that damage and reduce or prevent it in the future.

As leader of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s viticulture, or grape-growing, research, Dami studies, for example, new grape varieties’ cold hardiness and how to prune winter-damaged vines. Then he shares his findings for growers to use — a sustained flow of new science-based knowledge that Ferrante calls “a great asset to the industry.”


  • OARDC’s grape and wine research program is the only long-term, university-backed research program serving Ohio’s grape and wine industry.
  • Ohio’s grape and wine industry has a $786 million annual economic impact, a figure that has grown by a third in just the past six years.
  • The industry created 1,200 new jobs during that growth and now supports more than 5,000 full-time jobs.
  • Following last winter’s devastation, Dami has taught an ongoing statewide workshop series on pruning winter-damaged vines. The goal is to return Ohio grape growers to full production as soon as possible.
  • Dami and colleagues do extensive research on improved grape production methods. Field trials take place in Wooster, at OARDC’s Ashtabula Agricultural Research Station in Kingsville and in vineyards of cooperating growers.
  • Dami has attracted nearly $3.4 million in grant support from industry and others since 2008.

“Imed Dami’s research has impacted all of Ohio’s vineyards, especially in the Grand River Valley, which produces some of the state’s finest vinifera wines and has won many prestigious awards,” Ferrante said. “We’ve used many of Imed’s strategies to improve vine health, yields and wine quality.”