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Toxic Sludge

Not all toxic sludge is boring...! The abstract art was created by John Sabraw using paints made from the iron oxide collected from polluted rivers…

Toxic Sludge

Not all toxic sludge is boring…!

The abstract art was created by John Sabraw using paints made from the iron oxide collected from polluted rivers in Ohio.   Artist John Sabraw and environmental engineer Guy Riefler, both of Ohio University in Athens, created the paints from grinding down dried sludge’s collected from underground mine waters.  

By collecting iron rich contaminated waters before they came into contact with air Guy Riefler was able to control the rate of oxidation, generating the various different colours which when ground down were turned into oil paints

Guy Riefler saw something beautiful in the sludge’s generated from disused mime workings. “I was coming back from rivers with stained socks,” says Riefler. “Most pigments are iron-based anyway, and we thought that we could use this water to create paints.”

Collecting underground water before it hits the air allows Riefler to control the rate of oxidation, generating different colours of iron sludge. When dried, these can be ground down and made into oil paints. “Iron is remarkably flexible,” he says. “You can create a range of different colours: yellows, oranges, reds and blacks.”

Sabraw has been using the paints in his artwork and advising Riefler on what makes a good pigment. “My job is to be the sensitive one,” he says. “I play with the pigments and their mixing into paints, and discuss their viability with Guy.”

As the pigments are safe to use and produce there may be a business opportunity in cleaning up our mine working whilst making paints…now there’s a thought…!

Oh, and by the way, if you need any advice with contaminated soils or waters why not give us a call – 0131 538 8456



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