Whenever someone drinks a clean glass of tap water or enjoys a scenic drift along the Ohio River, he can thank Thomas J. Conway. On the recommendation of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the 1968 graduate is now one of 27 commissioners of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission—more commonly known as ORSANCO—the interstate water pollution control agency that oversees the 981-mile Ohio River Basin and its tributaries. During his six-year term, Conway is focusing on keeping the waterways sustainably pure and naturally beautiful.
“The commissioners set policy for ORSANCO with a budget of $2.4 million per year to focus on the Ohio River and its tributaries,” says Conway. “The big issue is the drinkability of the water and, more broadly, the safety of the water. Can you swim in it? Can you fish in it? Can you eat fish from the river? Is the river safe for barges, yachts and recreational vehicles? That’s our focus.”
Since 1948, ORSANCO has worked to improve water quality in the Ohio River Basin so that the river and its tributaries can be used for drinking water, industrial supplies and recreational purposes while supporting a healthy and diverse aquatic population. As commissioner, Conway brings 19 years of experience as president of Conway Co., in which he consults for non-profit organizations in their fundraising efforts. He’s helped raise more than $200 million for environmental groups, hospitals and independent schools.
“In a way, this is a culmination of decades of interest,” says Conway, who spends his spare time as an environmental photograher. “I wanted to bring people to forests and parks through my photography; to draw people into greater experiences with nature. You want to preserve it, expand it and make sure you can hand it on to the next generation.”