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The Dr. Guy Riefler Acid Mine Drainage Program

Supports the efforts of a collaborative team from Ohio University whose work turns environmental pollution into art.

The Dr. Guy Riefler Acid Mine Drainage Program

Your gift will support the efforts of two Ohio University professors – one an artist, one an engineer – who have partnered to turn an ecological nightmare into beautiful art. 

Bright orange streaks of toxic sludge – acid mine drainage – stain the rivers and streams of southeast Ohio’s green, Appalachian landscape. A killer of aquatic life, this unsightly pollution seeps from abandoned coal mines and into approximately 1,300 miles of stream water throughout the state. 

Knowing the pollution in neglected streams overwhelmingly affects impoverished, rural areas, Civil Engineering Department Chair and Professor Guy Riefler sought a solution. Riefler found a way to extract iron oxide from the stream water, leaving him with a beaker of clean water and a brightly colored byproduct. 

That’s where the insight of John Sabraw, chair of painting and drawing in the Ohio University School of Fine Arts, comes in. By firing the orange goop leftover from Riefler’s cleanup method in a kiln, professional-grade pigments are produced, which can be turned into paints. 

With the potential to sell the pigments and paint produced from the stream cleanup process, the duo hatched a way to potentially fund additional cleanup plants. For more than a decade, a team of student researchers and OHIO faculty have worked to make this innovative and sustainable environmental cleanup method a reality. 

Your donation to this fund supports the work of this collaborative team, who opened a pilot-scale stream water remediation plant in Perry County in spring 2018 in partnership with the Sunday Creek Watershed Group.