On June 29, True Pigments broke ground on the first phase of its acid mine drainage (AMD) treatment and pigment production facility near Millfield, Ohio.

The facility will treat AMD at the Truetown Discharge, one of the worst AMD discharge sites in the state of Ohio. The AMD will be turned into a high quality iron oxide pigment that will be sold for use in many products, including paint, dyes, and construction products. Once treatment begins, seven miles of Sunday Creek will be restored from the discharge site to the confluence with the Hocking River. True Pigments’ goal is to support the return of a thriving biological community complete with all the fish and aquatic creatures that would typically be found in our local streams while providing opportunities for employment in the region. Additionally, the True Pigments facility will replace 0.5% of the national annual consumption of iron oxide with a sustainable and domestic source for this commodity replacing millions of pounds of iron oxide that is being shipped into the US from abroad.

The True Pigments project is a collaboration between Rural Action, Ohio University, Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Mineral Resources Management, and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, that leverages skills in engineering, art, watershed restoration, and community development to build a social enterprise committed to the quadruple bottom line of people, planet, prosperity, and purpose.

Michelle Shively Maclver, Director of Project Development for True Pigments, delivered welcoming remarks followed by remarks from speakers, each representing a different project partner. Speakers included:

  • Mary Mertz, Director of The Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
  • John Sabraw, Chair, Professor of Painting and Drawing and Chair of Digital Art and Technology at Ohio University.
  • Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator for the Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
  • Debbie Phillips, Rural Action CEO.

“People kept trying to solve this problem, and found a way to flip the narrative and tell a new story,” Rural Action CEO Debbie Phillips said at the groundbreaking. “A story about art and resilience, and about how we can work together to create good jobs making something that has value.”

It was also announced that True Pigments’ three colors of pigment were accepted into the Forbes pigment collection at the Harvard Art Museums. Starting in September, there will also be an exhibit of Sabraw’s artwork and the True Pigments story on display in the Harvard University Center for the Environment. The exhibit will be open until summer 2024.

Attendees grabbed shovels and participated in a symbolic groundbreaking after the speakers. Light refreshments were also provided. After the ceremony, many attendees opted to tour the site and visit the Truetown Discharge where they were able to see and smell the effects of acid mine drainage on the water.