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Sustainable Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage for Pigment Production

Acid Mine Draining Paint Pigment

University and Community Collaborators:

Department of Civil Engineering, Russ College of Engineering; School of Art + Design, College of Fine Arts; Sunday Creek Watershed Group, Rural Action


In Appalachian Ohio, many streams have been polluted with iron ore and other minerals running off from abandoned coal mines. Rural Action’s Sunday Creek Watershed Group and Ohio University have been working for a decade to find treatment solutions for large acid mine drainage seeps, successfully restoring seven miles of stream, but at the largest of these seeps, a new solution was needed.

OHIO civil engineering professor Dr. Guy Reifler and art professor John Sabraw devised a plan to precipitate the iron ore from the water and turn it into paint. In partnership with Rural Action Sunday Creek Watershed Coordinator, Michelle Shively, and with funding from the Sugar Bush Foundation and Ohio University alumnus Dick Dickerson, they built a pilot plant to test the technology in the Village of Corning, where rust colored water flows out into the village park stream at 1,000 gallons per minute. Professor Sabraw bakes the precipitated iron ore to different temperatures and creates an array of yellows, oranges, reds, browns and purple, which he and other artists turn into amazing art. Sabraw contracted with Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors of Portland Oregon to create a popular limited edition of tube paints in “Reclaimed Earth Colors” created from this iron ore. Reifler and Sabraw hope to someday see a full scale water treatment plant that creates local jobs and supplies plenty of pigment for paint. See links!

Learn More:

First painting made from pilot plant pigment.

Photos of the pilot plant in Corning, Ohio.

Photos of the fence artwork around the pilot plant

Clean Streams: Engineer and artist collaborate to turn pollution from Ohio Waterways into paint pigment, Perspectives, Spring/Summer 2018

Appalachia's orange stain, The Post

Gallery: Pretty poison, TED

John Sabraw’s website

The pollution leaking from coal mines can now be turned into paint, Fast Company, April 2018

How an artist and a scientist transform polluted water into paint, Green Matters, July 2017

Project converts toxic run-off into paint ingredient, Athens News, December 2017

Funding period:  2016/2017, 2017/2018.

Funding to date:  $50,000