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Guy Riefler to discuss turning pollution into paint at Sept. 18 Science Café

Join Dr. Guy Riefler, professor of Civil Engineering, for the first Science Café of the 2019-20 season, “Cleaning up Pollution by Turning It into Paint” at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, in the Baker University Center Front Room.

Riefler will lead a discussion about the cause and scope of the problem, demonstrate the magic of the chemistry involved in treating the water, display the amazing art produced from these new pigments, and explain the economics of their proposed treatment system. The Science Café also may be viewed live or after the event here:

Athens, Ohio, is a lush, rural environment surrounded by large swaths of dense forest. But, underneath those hillsides, hundreds of miles of abandoned coal tunnels cut their way through ancient sediments and fossils below those green forests. In some places, those passageways fill with water, exposing these 300-million-year-old rocks to water and oxygen, and triggering an amazing and deadly series of chemical and biological reactions.  

In one location, less than 10 miles from the Ohio University campus, one million gallons of heavily polluted water pours into Sunday Creek every day. That mine seep deposits over 4,000 pounds of iron every day into Sunday Creek, the equivalent of junking two cars into the stream every day for the past 40 years. 

Over the past decade, Riefler and his collaborators have been developing a new technology that can clean the water as it exits the mine. They are now engaged in designing a $7 million water treatment plant that will collect and process the iron; by creating and selling a paint pigment using the recovered metal, they plan to offset operational costs. If successful, their technology will clean the pollution, restore the stream, create jobs and a new industry out of a prevalent Appalachian waste, and make money in the process.

Science Cafés are part of Ohio University’s Café Series, Wednesdays at the Baker University Center Front Room. The series provides a venue for students to informally share their interests during a conversational exchange with faculty presenters, staff and the Athens community.

Free coffee is offered to the first 50 attendees, and participants who ask questions can win a free T-shirt. The series is supported by the Ohio University Research Division and Sigma Xi.

Learn more! Watch the 1-minute Café Series video and view the schedule of fall semester speakers:

September 9, 2019
Staff reports