A common side effect of the mining industry, iron oxide runoff has been impacting Ohio’s waterways for generations. Now, a group of artists and scientists in the state are removing this contaminant from a section of Sunday Creek and using it as an ingredient in paint pigment — and a new documentary short shares their inspiring story.
“In Southeast Ohio, acid mine drainage is a common pollutant in our streams,” said Guy Riefler, professor and chair of Civil Engineering at Ohio University, in the documentary Toxic Art (2023), directed by Jason Whalen. “You can still run into children who, you tell them to draw a stream, and they reach for an orange crayon.”
This colorfully demonstrates something that is generally known about extractive mining practices like acid mine drainage (AMD) — that its impact on the environment is significant and lasting. Working in tandem with Riefler, artist and environmentalist John Sabraw and a group of volunteers and students have developed a process that converts iron oxide waste into pigment for oil paints.
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