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Rivers are Life Premieres ‘Toxic Art’ Showcasing the Power of Collaboration & Creativity in Environmental Protection

Today, in honor of World Sustainability Day, Rivers are Life unveils their latest film highlighting Appalachian Ohio’s Sunday Creek and environmental efforts made by local River Heroes John Sabraw, Guy Reifler, and Michelle Shively MacIver. Located in Southeastern Ohio, the 27-mile-long creek is severely polluted by acid mine drainage (a product of the area’s several abandoned coal mines). The film, “Toxic Art,” focuses on the collaborative effort using art and innovative technology to revitalize streams devastated by historic coal mining.

John Sabraw is an artist, environmentalist, activist, and Professor of Art at Ohio University. When he first moved to Ohio, he was able to learn about the local environment through his environmentalist colleagues. On a trip to a local stream, John was shocked to find that these waterways were orange and full of sludge as a result of acid mine drainage and the pollutant iron oxide. 

Sabraw learned that more than 6,650 stream miles in Central Appalachia run orange due to the impact of acid mine drainage. The Truetown Discharge, located in the Sunday Creek watershed, is the largest single acid mine drainage discharge in the state of Ohio with a flow rate of 988 gallons per minute. This amounts to approximately 2,183,065 pounds of iron oxide dumping into Sunday Creek each year, decimating aquatic habitat for seven miles. 

After seeing the severity of this pollution firsthand, Sabraw took home a jar of sludge from the creek and, using his knowledge of iron oxides from his experience as an artist, began experimenting with turning this sludge into a pigment. He eventually joined forces with Ohio University Professor and Chair of Civil Engineering, Guy Riefler, and after years of experimentation, the pair succeeded in creating a pigment that was both environmentally and economically sustainable.

The duo later collaborated with nonprofit regional community development organization Rural Action, as well as state and federal agencies, to create True Pigments. True Pigments is a social enterprise committed to creating socio-economic opportunities for the local community while cleaning and restoring Sunday Creek, allowing life to return to the heavily-polluted seven miles of stream.

“When we put people together from different disciplines and different backgrounds, that is when this magic happens,” John said. “Humans have exponential potential to solve these crises and to take stewardship over a future that is going to be sustainable and joyous. I believe more than ever that that’s possible, and that’s what we have to do.”

In June 2023, Rural Action, Ohio University, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement broke ground on the new True Pigments Acid Mine Drainage Treatment & Pigment Production Facility. Once this plant goes live, 100% of coal mine pollution will be intercepted before it reaches waterways.

The full “Toxic Art” film, along with limited edition prints from Sabraw, are available on Rivers are Life’s platform HERE.

Contact Information:
Katie Horning
Head of Brand, Rivers are Life Brand Division, BeAlive Inc.
[email protected]
989-491-1019


Original Source: Rivers are Life Premieres 'Toxic Art' Showcasing the Power of Collaboration & Creativity in Environmental Protection

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