Colors for a cleaner world

True PIgments in the media

True Pigments is attracting considerable media interest. This page information journalists can use to contact us to learn more about True Pigments as well as links to our press releases and media mentions.

Press Releases

Celebrate Earth Day with Paints Made from Pollution
April 16, 2020

The Plains, OH - Paint generally isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think about Earth Day. Enter Reclaimed Earth Colors, a set of oil paints that were made from the pollution that taints many Appalachian streams and turns them orange. These paints, produced by Gamblin Artists Colors, were created by extracting iron oxide from Sunday Creek in Athens County, Ohio. The innovative process cleans the acid mine drainage (AMD) caused by historic coal mining, turning it into pigment for use in paints and other products.

True Pigments, Gamblin Artist Colors Plan Release Party for Paints Made From Pollution
March 3, 2020

The Plains, OH —True Pigments, LLC, a social enterprise of Rural Action, is throwing a release party on March 19 to unveil a limited-edition oil paint set that Gamblin Artists Colors created from acid mine drainage (AMD). “Every speck of pigment in these tubes has been painstakingly reclaimed from waters tainted by iron released from [coal] mines,” according to the packaging on Reclaimed Earth Colors, the paints that Gamblin created from the discharge. Gamblin is based in Portland, OR.

Rural Action's True Pigments Earns National Prize for Social Innovation
Nov. 14, 2019

Environmental Justice Initiative Selected by J.M. Kaplan Fund from 1,300+ Ideas, Joins Nationwide Cohort of Social Innovation Leaders New York CityThe J.M. Kaplan Fund announced today the results of its nationwide search to identify ten exceptionally catalytic social and environmental change initiatives. One of the ten awardees –True Pigments – is an environmental-justice initiative of Rural Action based in Ohio that offers a powerful new model for the environmental field. The J.M.K. Innovation Prize is awarded biennially to ten non-profit and mission-driven for-profit organizations tackling America’s most pressing challenges through social innovation – defined as those pilot projects, new organizations or nascent initiatives that involve a certain amount of measured risk but which may ultimately lead to large-scale, transformative results. Each awardee receives up to $175,000 over three years and participates in a learning collaborative of fellow innovators to support their journey as change agents.

Media Mentions

Toxic mine pollution has turned Ohio rivers orange. Now it's being made into paint.
CNN, August 2, 2022

With rolling hills, forests and hiking trails, Southeast Ohio is a haven for lovers of the outdoors. Yet cutting through the landscape are countless orange-stained streams, colored by the iron oxide pollution that has seeped into them from abandoned coal mines. These streams are contaminated with a toxic sludge known as acid mine drainage (AMD) -- the overflow of highly acidic wastewater from underground mines, created when water comes into contact with exposed mining rocks.

In coal country, a new chance to clean up a toxic legacy
The Washington Post, May 19, 2022

The True Pigments pilot plant, a collaboration among Ohio University, environmental advocacy group Rural Action and Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources, aims to harvest the iron oxide that turns the water a bright orange and turn it into pigment for bricks and tiles as well as artist-grade paints. “The goal of the project is that the anticipated revenue from pigment sales would be used to offset plant operation and maintenance costs,” said Sarah Wickham, communications officer for Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources.

Reinventing coal country: Reclaiming America’s abandoned mine lands
Grist, November 18, 2021

The Plains, OH - As innovative models for reclamation unfold, and federal funding nears, there is new hope for the communities that once depended on coal mining... An innovative social enterprise called True Pigments, owned by the non-profit Rural Action, is deploying a patent-pending technology to remove the iron from the water and transform it into pigments for the paint and construction markets. A pilot system is up and running, and the main treatment plant, which will restore a 7-mile stretch of the creek, will open in 2024. “On day one, when we flip that switch, it will keep all the iron out of the stream and eliminate the acidity,” says Michelle Shively MacIver, who is running the project. “That 7-mile stretch will run clean.”

An Ohio Artist and Activist is Turning Acid Mine Pollution Into Paint
Time Magazine, Aug. 24, 2020

Sunday Creek begins around Corning, a small town in southeastern Ohio, before snaking down 27 miles to connect with the Hocking River. Like much of Appalachia, the creek’s watershed was historically home to communities of coal miners, but the mines have since closed, leaving only their runoff: nearly 1,000 gal. a minute of water so badly contaminated that Sunday Creek is now home to the worst acid mine drainage (AMD) site in the stateJohn Sabraw, an Ohio University professor of art who is also interested in sustainability, first noticed the effects of AMD when exploring the area with an environmentalist group in 2003.

Rural Action Purchases Truetown acid mine drainage land
Athens Messenger, April 2, 2020

Rural Action now owns the worst acid mine discharge in the state of Ohio.
And the group couldn’t be happier. The site, in Truetown (near Millfield) in Athens County, produces 988 gallons of acid mine drainage per minute — more than 2 million pounds of iron oxide per year. The water runs orange, and is not potable, as a result of the coal mining of years past. Pyrite exposed through mining is combines with rain water and air to form sulfuric acid through dissolved iron. It further dissolves heavy metals such as copper, lead and mercury into the groundwater and streams, which can disrupt plant growth and animal habitats, as well as corrode infrastructure.

Building Biodiversity: Acid Mine Drainage Kills Biodiversity in Hocking River
Ohio University Post, March 26, 2020

Rust-colored sludge fills the streams of Southeast Ohio as acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines continues to pollute tributaries of the Hocking River, destroying local aquatic habitats.Historically, rural Appalachia was considered an extensive coal mining region. Before the 1970s, the U.S. had very limited restrictions on the coal mining industry, which resulted in the environmental legacy known as acid mine drainage.

Modern Day Alchemy: New Help For Treating Acid Mine Drainage
American College of Environmental Lawyers, March 11, 2020

Two promising new technologies—recovery of rare earths from acid mine drainage (AMD and conversion of AMD treatment by-products to paint pigments are bringing new hope to remediating AMD polluted streams. These technologies are a kind of modern day alchemy—restoring streams that are orange and lifeless by turning pollution into economically valuable products and creating new jobs for local economies. The development of economically viable treatment processes is a game changer for AMD treatment with potentially huge benefits for national security, local economies, and restoration of the health of thousands of miles of now lifeless streams.

Coal Pollution Turned an Appalachian Creek Orange, Locals Are Using it to Make Paint
Grist, Jan. 15, 2020

In the rolling Appalachian foothills of Ohio, Sunday Creek runs bright with shades of red and orange. The 27-mile-long tributary flows through the ruins of abandoned coal mines, which sprawl beneath the southeast part of the state like a labyrinth. The companies that dug the century-old mines are long gone. But residents in this rural region still live with the mess that’s left behind.

$3.5M Moves Acid Mine Drainage Cleanup Plant Toward Full Scale
Athens News, Jan. 1, 2020

Ohio University, Rural Action and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) are moving forward with a plan that would ultimately construct a full-scale acid mine drainage (AMD) water treatment plant in Millfield, near Athens, according to an OU news release.

Rural Action Initiative Earns National Innovation Prize
Athens Messenger, Nov. 14, 2019

Rural Action’s True Pigments environmental justice initiative has been named one of 10 national awardees of the 2019 J.M. Kaplan Fund Innovation Prize.

Media Contacts

Members of the media seeking more information about True Pigments should contact Michelle Shively, director of project development, at

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