The federal government will be footing the bill to clean up hundreds of gallons of industrial paint illegally dumped along a back road in Oregon.
It will cost more than $10,000 to clean up the mess left by 279 one-gallon cans dumped along a back road in a heavily forested area operated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, an agency spokesman says.
Bureau of Land Management
|Dumping is easy amid the forests of the Eugene BLM District, officials say.|
Tipped off by a resident, the agency found the cans late last week just west of Marcola, OR, and south of Buck Mountain. Making matters worse, the dumper was followed by someone who used a large number of the cans for target practice, said Michael Mascari, spokesman for BLM’s Eugene District.
“They were all shot up” and oozing paint onto the ground, Mascari said.
The industrial-grade, oil-based paints contained ethylbenzene and xylene, Mascari said.
Fortunately, the cans were found before they could rust through, which can happen quickly in the snowy, rainy region, he said.
“These are certainly hazardous,” BLM hazardous materials specialist Walt Smith said in a prepared statement. “They can cause damage to human/animal nervous systems and kill vegetation.”
Smith said it was fortunate that the paint had not yet seeped into the groundwater, which could have caused serious health problems.
The BLM contracted with Portland-based NRC Environmental for the cleanup, which consists of removing the cans, properly disposing of the chemicals, using earth movers to remove the contaminated soil, and filling in the area.
The initial cleanup was completed Tuesday, but BLM is still refilling, replanting and restoring the area.
BLM finds everything from appliances to trash to wrecked vehicles dumped on its lands. Last year, officials in Mascari’s district had to remove and clean up after a diesel tanker ditched there. (The owner was later found and ordered to pay restitution.)
Dumping is easy—BLM lands are open—and popular, because proper disposal can be expensive. Sometimes, volunteers can be enlisted to help with clean-ups, but not in cases like this that involve toxic chemicals.
Already this year, the Eugene District BLM has spent about $25,000 to clean up illegal dumping—a sizeable chunk of the BLM's $100,000 annual cleanup budget for all of Oregon and Washington State, Mascari said.
BLM’s security staff is investigating the dumping, using labeling from the cans and working with local law enforcement to track down the perpetrators.
“A lot of times we do actually catch the perpetrator,” said Mascari. “In this one, we feel confident that we have a great chance to solve this.”
He added: “I think that sometimes people don’t stop and think about the damage caused by what they’re doing. They think it’s cheaper, but ultimately it costs everyone. It costs the taxpayers, and it prevents us from doing other things.”
That may be why, he added, illegal dumping is the rare topic that the politically polarized area (“everything from Berkeley to Idaho all mixed into one”) can agree on. And everyone—Big Timber, government, environmentalists—hates it.
“These dumps make everyone unhappy,” he said. “Nobody wins when it comes to this.”