About Clean Creek Products
Our hand-crafted artworks use repurposed minerals recovered from abandoned mine drainage to achieve their deep, rich coloration. All Clean Creek Product proceeds help volunteer groups clean up our western Pennsylvania creeks and rivers.
Watch the PBS video, “Clean Creek Products,” broadcast on 10/30/2014 as part of the Greenlife Pennsylvania series.
Brief History of Abandoned Mine Drainage
People have extracted and used the earth’s natural resources for thousands of years. Pennsylvania’s first known commercial coal mine began in 1761 on Coal Hill, now known as Mount Washington in Pittsburgh. While coal has fueled our economy, heated our homes and provided countless kilowatt-hours of electricity, old-time historical mining left scarred landscapes and polluted streams across the Appalachian region. Forty-five of Pennsylvania’s sixty-seven counties have abandoned mine lands. Approximately 5,500 miles of streams in Pennsylvania alone are polluted by abandoned mine drainage. This pollution contains metals that coat the bottom of streams, destroying the habitat of the aquatic insects that are so important to the food chain.
Good News: Resource Recovery
In recent times, many different groups have worked together to design and build passive treatment systems to clean up pollution from abandoned mines. “Passive treatment” means cleaning polluted water without electricity or harsh, costly chemicals. Barren strip mines and coal waste piles can be reclaimed into productive farmlands, woodlands, parks and game lands. How? By building treatment systems for water pollution, and by re-mining coal seams with modern equipment. Miles of streams that were lifeless for decades are once again healthy habitats brimming with fish, turtles, frogs, insects and other aquatic wildlife. But it takes money to keep passive treatment systems going for the long haul. Every year, thousands of tons of metals - manganese, iron and aluminum oxides - are captured in hundreds of treatment ponds. These metals must be removed so that the systems stay effective. So then, what happens to the metals?
Closing the Loop: Clean Creek Products
At Clean Creek, we’re developing uses for the metal oxides that settle out in passive treatment ponds. We market these materials as a resource instead of discarding them as worthless sludge. We harvest the oxides and put them to good use as food-safe pigments for pottery glazes. Our ceramic artists use Clean Creek glazes in their dishes, mugs, jewelry, ornaments and handcrafts. When you buy Clean Creek products, 100% of your money benefits the local artisans and the grassroots volunteer groups who keep mine drainage out of our streams and rivers.