How An Artist And A Scientist Transform Polluted Water Into Paint

How An Artist And A Scientist Transform Polluted Water Into Paint
Updated 10 months ago

Artist John Sabraw has been working with civil engineer and Ohio State University professor Guy Riefler on a project intended to highlight a big problem for Ohio's rivers. Treehugger reports that mining activity has polluted the water in many areas, leaching heavy metals and other toxins into the water from improperly sealed coal mines. An estimated 1,300 miles of waterway have been effected by acid mine drainage, the acidic water that flows from the places where people once worked. Some of the mines still polluting the water are over a hundred years old.

Riefler conducted experiments with his students at the university and discovered that it was fairly easy to separate the water from the iron inside, at least in small jug-sized batches. He told science blog ASME, "You just neutralize the water with the addition of a base to adjust the ph, and then oxidize the water. The ferrous iron converts to ferric iron and precipitates out."

While separating the iron out was easy, turning it into pigment was beyond Riefler's experience. He reached out to Sabraw because he knew that he had experience making his own paints, and a collaboration was born.

They collect water:

Separate the iron and other toxins:

Then turn it into pigment through various heating processes. Sabraw has said it's a little like "toasting bread."

Sabraw has been producing vivid and beautiful paintings with the results and the pair are hoping that paint made through this process could become a marketable product, one that would could pay to clean some of Ohio's waterways. To make that possible, they'd have to build a plant that could process the water quickly, since Riefler's lab isn't outfitted to go through so many gallons a day. But they both believe it could not only be profitable, but ecologically sustainable. Sabraw says:

"The proceeds from selling the pigment will pay for the plant, it will pay for the employees and it will pay for the cleanup of a stream. The moment that the plant becomes viable is the moment that the stream goes back to biological viability. It's not a 10-year thing, it's not a 20-year thing, it's not a 50-year thing, it's a tomorrow kind of thing."

So far, most of Riefler's work has been funded by the U.S. Forest Service, who are struggling to deal with acid mine drainage in the nearby Anthony Wayne National Forest. To take things to the next level, they'll need more funding, but for now the idea paints a beautiful picture.

CommunityEverything You Need To Know About Organic Sunscreen Before Hitting The Beach

With the summer fast approaching, plans for sunny beach days and long hiking trips are not far away. Before grabbing your next sunscreen off the shelf, read on to learn how to choose the best type of sunscreen while avoiding the sun’s harmful UV rays.

By Desiree Kaplan
4 days ago
FoodThis Detroit Non-Profit Created A Shipping Container Farm To Feed Their Community

The automaker has partnered with a local charity to grow year-round produce and teach children about farming.

By Nicole Caldwell
1 week ago
NewsAnnouncing The Winners Of Our #WorkGreen Challenge

And the winners are...

By Green Matters
3 weeks ago
FoodGrubTubs Turns Restaurant Waste Into Nutrient-Dense Animal Feed

A Q&A with GrubTubs founder Robert Olivier, who uses food waste from restaurants to help family farmers create nutrient-dense animal feed.

By Nicole Caldwell
4 weeks ago
Stay Green
Sign up for our newsletter