US Non-Profit Is Transforming Mining Pollution Into Paint — Here’s How!

Aug 12, 2022by Olivia - F&F

US non-profit, Rural Action, is transforming toxic pollution into beautiful paints through their social enterprise, True Pigments. Let’s take a look at how it works, and why this environmental initiative is benefiting local communities, too!

Sunday Creek PollutionSunday Creek Pollution

Image: True Pigments 

Rural Action Is Treating Ohio’s Polluted Waters

In Ohio’s Appalachian region, it isn’t uncommon to see orange streams tainted with pollution from local coal mining activities. In Truetown, Ohio, over 1,000 gallons (3,785 litres) of polluted acid mine drainage water gushes out of an abandoned mine per minute; flowing into the already-polluted Sunday Creek. 

It’s estimated that this polluted water holds roughly 1,000 tonnes of iron, which chokes all aquatic life and pollutes nearby drinking water. The water in Sunday Creek has become so polluted that no fish live in it, and the communities around Sunday Creek are unable to drink the water. 

Instead of accepting this grim reality, a non-profit, Rural Action, is working with the University of Ohio to reverse the damage to the creek and create something beautiful in the process — paint!

True Pigments ColoursTrue Pigments Colours

Image: True Pigments

How Can You Transform Polluted Water Into Paint?

So, how is it possible to create gorgeous paints from mining-polluted waters? Well, in Truetown Ohio, Rural Action began by creating a small treatment centre and collecting the contaminated water in large tanks. After the water is collected, a base is added to neutralise its acidity, and then oxygen is added. Then, the non-toxic iron oxide sinks to the bottom of the tanks, where it’s dried into pigments. 

This was the idea behind True Pigments — a social enterprise dedicated to transforming mining pollution into a valuable, creative commodity. In a collaboration with Gamblin Colours — a Portland-based paint company — True Pigments released a limited edition range of oil paints, named Reclaimed Earth Colours! The 3 oil colours — Rust Red, Iron Violet, and Brown Ochre — are created by heating the iron oxide pigments to different temperatures. Cool, right?

Rural Action True Pigments TeamRural Action True Pigments Team

Image: True Pigments

Soon, Rural Action Will Treat More Than 6 Million Litres Per Day!

Through the success of True Pigments, Real Action has big plans for the future! The non-profit was awarded a $3.5 million USD grant to design and build a full-scale water treatment and pigment production facility. 

The new facility will have the capacity to treat 6 million litres and produce around 2 tonnes of pigment every day. It’s hoped that the facility will be up and running by 2023! 

But, for True Pigments, it’s not just about creating and selling beautiful paints. One of their key aims is to bring clean water and prosperity to an area that has struggled with poverty. By 2023, it’s hoped that True Pigments will employ 5 people with living wages and full benefits. The social enterprise also hopes to expand into more watershed restoration projects!

We love this good news story! It just goes to show that even polluted wastewater can be transformed into something beautiful and useful. True Pigments’ paints are helping to solve an environmental issue, bring attention to the region’s polluted waters, and provide employment to people around Sunday Creek, too! 

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