Tomorrow marks a significant anniversary in the life of our community. Thursday, Kerr Environmental Research Laboratory officials invite the rest of us to help them do something employees there rarely, if ever, do – toot their own horn. Tomorrow Kerr Lab commemorates 40 years of quietly doing the job it does better than any other such facility in the world and officials have an open house planned for 1-5 p.m. The public is invited.

So modest have those employed at Kerr Lab been in performing their important work, some here may not know what goes on inside the impressive building located on the road bearing their facility’s name. If you’ve ever wondered, here is what they do: Through the auspices of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), scientists there work to understand, protect and restore ground and surface water and ecosystems impacted by man-made and natural events.

Thanks to Robert S. Kerr, Ada’s most famous U.S. Senator, the facility opened its doors for the first time in 1966. Today, Kerr Research Lab has a staff of 55 federal employees and another 80 or so contract personnel with an annual budget of $16 million, much of it in payroll, according to local officials.

The Ada lab is one of six research divisions of EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory and is part of the agency’s Office of Research and Development. Ada’s lab concentrates it energies on researching different aspects of ground and surface water. According to Stephen Schmelling, Ph.D., Kerr Research Lab director, in the 1970s contaminated groundwater began to be recognized as an important environmental problem and because of that, the facility here got a boost in its mission.

As a result, Kerr Lab has a national reputation and is noted for its research to clean up contaminated ground water.

On the economic side of the equation, having Kerr Research Lab located here means our community enjoys an economic boost many only dream of having. In human terms, we are fortunate to have their quality folks calling Ada home.

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