Turning Acid Mine Drainage Pollution Into Pottery

Dec 31, 2013

Margaret Dunn hopes that pottery made with acid mine drainage pollution can help the environment and the people of this region.
Credit Jennifer Szweda Jordan / The Allegheny Front

The brilliant rust orange iron oxide that’s pulled out of waterways polluted with acid mine drainage is finding its way into the hands of artists and craftsmen.  The dried and powdered material is being used to color T-shirts, wood stain, concrete, and even the “burnt sienna” shade of Crayola crayons. Now a nonprofit is helping turn creek contaminants into pottery glaze.

Margaret Dunn jokes that she's too old and tired for arguing.  

So when she figured out that the residue of acid mine drainage-polluted creeks could be used as a pottery glaze and the money from the sale of the arts could go back into watershed cleanups—she was beyond thrilled.

In 2005, Margaret Dunn happened upon a way to make the most of dried up clumps of iron oxide and manganese when her best friend, a potter, recognized that material that they were collecting in the systems where they were treating mine drainage could be used by potters.

Read more of this story at the website of our partner The Allegheny Front.
"And I said, 'You can use this?' And she said 'Yes.' She made a few pieces.  Now we have seven potters that contribute—ceramic artists, I guess you would say.  And all the money from the sale of the material and the pottery goes to help watershed groups."