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Blue Bridge Paint Oversprays Into FL River


As workers sprayed a bridge over the Orange River in Buckingham, Florida, the wind reportedly carried the blue paint into the water below, raising concerns about the environmental impact.

The community sounded the alarm last week after smelling paint in the air and saw the blue coating sticking to leaves and plants along the bank. One homeowner described them as “toxic blue lily pads.”

Crews from the Lee County Department of Transportation said that the paint accidentally got into river during routine maintenance. However, they “immediately set up control measures to contain the paint overspray and notified Lee County Natural Resources and our partners at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”

In addition to wildlife concerns, the river is also reportedly where neighbors get their well water for drinking.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is aware of this and is coordinating with local authorities, including Lee County’s Stormwater and Pollution Prevention Program, to ensure clean-up actions are being taken,” wrote the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in a statement.

“Turbidity curtains have been placed at the bridge and further down the waterway to contain the release, absorbent pads were placed in the waterway to collect other excess paint and today, cleanup crews were using nets to collect any additional paint remaining in the river."

Local news outlet WINK News and the community reportedly took paint samples to a Florida Gulf Coast University laboratory to review what type of paint and chemicals were in the water.

According to associate professor of biology Dr. Nora Demers, the Lee County DOT was utilizing a “Safety Blue High Performance Protective Enamel” to coat the steel. The brand is reportedly a Rust-Oleum brand paint, used to protect infrastructure from rusting.

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“Obviously, any manmade thing that we put into the environment is going to have more negative consequences than positive,” Demers said. “If there was enough paint present that they needed to put in a boom or something to prevent it from spreading, then that in itself is an indication that the impact is higher than it would have been if it was just a little bit of overspray from the wind.”

Using the safety data sheet for the coating, Demers analyzed the results of the testing and their ingredients.

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“The carcinogenicity is category two. So it’s suspected of cancer-causing possible hazards 5% of the mixture consists of ingredients of unknown acute toxicity,” said Demers. “Titanium dioxide xylenes I would worry about; those are long-chained chemic carbon-based chemicals.”

Demers added that if there was that much overspray, the workers should have stopped.

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“Certainly, there is a level of [being] careful. And the more careful we are, the more likely we are we’re not going to get into a situation,” said Demers.

Lee County said the dried overspray was removed from the water and any vegetation affected was removed.

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reportedly confirmed that there have been no reported dead fish, fish kills or sick fish in the Orange River, as of May 22.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Bridges; Cleanup; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Maintenance coating work; Maintenance programs; Overspray; Paint application; Program/Project Management; Rust-Oleum Corp.; Water/Wastewater


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