Like a horror-movie backdrop, a Huron River tributary flowed blood red for almost 24 hours last week, when superconcentrated dye from some old coatings equipment was washed into the creek.
The nontoxic Magnaflux liquid penetrant washed into Rattlesnake Creek in Norwalk, OH, quickly coloring more than a million gallons of water, when torrential rains hit the area, said Norwalk Fire Chief Bob Bores.
The penetrant had built up almost to slurry thickness in some old powder coatings equipment that belonged to American Coating Specialists, a now-defunct protective coatings manufacturer in Norwalk, Bores said. The equipment had been cut apart for disassembly at Norwalk Waste Materials Co. when the rains came, washing the penetrant into the stormwater.
The ACS property and equipment are now owned by a local business, the Bleile Co. An Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman said company owner Tim Bleile had hired a scrap metal company to come in and clean out the building and was selling the machinery for scrap.
The scrap company, which was not identified, apparently staged some of the machinery outdoors, and subsequent rains washed out some of the dye powder. This was flowing off the property. Representatives from the Ohio EPA went to the scene to help the company install temporary dams to stop the flow off the property and pump out the water. Twenty loads of the water-diluted dye were taken to the local wastewater treatment plant for processing.
“There were no problems until the 21st load, which was much more concentrated,” said Ohio EPA spokeswoman Dina Pierce. “The treatment could not take the higher concentration of dye out of the water, and the plant discharged the red effluent into the creek.”
‘A Little Dab’
The penetrant is “so soluble that it escaped and overflowed,” said Bores. “It only takes a little dab, and you’ve got red all over everything.”
|The creek color spooked nearby residents, but authorities said the material was nontoxic and did not contaminate local drinking water.|
The treatment facility was able to capture a million and a half gallons of contaminated water and is holding it in an equalization basin until it can be filtered and returned to the creek, authorities said. Meanwhile, the high water volume from the rains dissipated the rest of the dye within about 24 hours.
The contaminated water did not make it into the area’s drinking water, authorities said.
Dye penetrant is commonly used to detect cracks, leaks and other surface-breaking defects in non-porous materials.
Ohio EPA confirmed that the dye is water soluble, biodegradable and non-toxic to humans and animals.
“We’re working to collect the material and get it properly treated and disposed of,” said Pierce.
The city and company are working on a solution to dispose of the material, she said. In the meantime, the liquid material left at the company site is being maintained by dikes to prevent further runoff until they find a source to take the material.
The scrap metal company is believed to have moved the machinery back into the building to keep it out of the elements until the dye material left in the equipment can be removed.
Authorities fielded numerous phone calls from alarmed residents, telling them that the material rated a 1 on a toxicity scale of 1 to 10. Authorities say the problem has happened before.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen creeks red from this,” said Jason Roblin, director of the Huron County Emergency Management Agency.