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US Gets Tab for Illegal Paint Dumping

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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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.

 Eugene, OR

 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.

Groundwater Spared

“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.

Dumping Grounds

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.

Investigation Underway

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.”


Tagged categories: Paint disposal; Regulations

Comment from David Johnson, (6/24/2011, 9:40 AM)

$10,000 for 279 one gallon paint cans? Government job for sure. The paint cans and contents, although containing some "harmful" sounding chemicals are commonly used by people all over the world on a daily basis. Pick them up and put them in a truck, or a bag if they are leaking. Any ground remediation could be done with a bob-cat and shovels. That doesn't require $10,000 either. I don't agree with dumping. And I do agree the cans need to be cleaned up. But I also don't agree that we need to spend that kind of money to clean up 279 paint cans.

Comment from Paul Schroder, (6/24/2011, 10:33 AM)

Depends on where and what it is David. 10,000 will not even paint your home in some cases much less have a crew out in the boonies cleaning up toxic crap. I don't think you could do it right for any less.

Comment from George McCormic, (6/24/2011, 1:06 PM)

This is an OBOMA shovel ready job, maybe he sent someone out there to dump the paint. It is stupid for people to do this sort of thing, but if they do catch the person what happens, pay for the cleanup and most likely no more

Comment from Billy Russell, (6/26/2011, 9:02 AM)

I agree with David 10.000 does seem awful steep pick the cans up put in 6 mil plastic bags shovel what leaked out of the cans the ranger that found it could have it done already,but I am sure they spent 5000 already studying the best way to proceed!!!!!

Comment from carlos rosales, (6/27/2011, 8:31 AM)

it costs almost $2,000 to properly dispose of a "box" of paint cans and it would probably hold about 80 of them you cant just put them on 6 mill bags and throw them away in a dumpster, plus you got to get them off the area and just to get equipment to one of this areas can cost a bit of money, plus you have to inventory everything and report to the epa, by the way you may need to get a generator number and register as a hazardous waste generator and need to hire a haz mat truck to get this out i think 10,000 was a decent enough price.

Comment from Joe Schneider, (6/28/2011, 10:09 AM)

As with any government job, it cost 3 times what it should. I'm amazed that when a can of soda breaks open in a supermarket, that they don't have to evacuate the town and call a haz-mat team in to clean it up. You know there are chemicals in that stuff that if you consume 100,000 gallons of it, it will hurt you. There's no room in government for common sense.

Comment from Nick Lombardi, (6/28/2011, 10:27 AM)

Cannot agree with Billy Russel on this! 1 You cannot put Xylene or oil bsed products into poly plastic bags....xylene it is a hot solvent and will melt right thru the bags 2. Once you get the cans you still have to dispose of it. 3. You have to replace contaminated soil AND replace it AFTER you pay to reclaim the soil or clean it. 10 thou $$$'s is expensive but it is what it costs... We must ask ourselves if we were operating a business what it would cost us to clean up one of these areas.

Comment from Paul Archambo, (6/29/2011, 11:37 AM)

Has common sense left the building? It is expensive to dispose of hazardous materials and it is best not to use low ball companies that cut every corner. As is the habit now bash the government at every opportunity. I wonder which is better a country like china or mexico. If corporate republicans have their way we will soon be there...

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/30/2011, 9:08 AM)

$10,000 is a pretty reasonable price to have a qualified contractor clean up over a ton of leaking paint which contaminated plenty more soil - and actually dispose of it properly instead of dumping it on some other back road. If this were a simple can pickup and disposal, yes the price would be high - but it's not.

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