CBS4 Investigation Exposes Illegal Dumping By Arapahoe County

Written by Brian Maass
BENNETT, Colo. (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has uncovered Arapahoe County Public Works employees illegally pumping hundreds, maybe thousands of gallons of paint used for road striping onto the ground only about 100 yards from homes where residents rely on ground water for drinking.

The dumping, which apparently took place in January of this year, was at a yard leased by Arapahoe County at 4374 South County Road 137 in Bennett. It’s at the intersection of Kiowa-Bennett Road and East Quincy Avenue and was videotaped by workers with Arapahoe County’s Road and Bridge Department.

The property, known as the “Kiowa-Bennett” yard, is used for storing old pavement and other supplies. But on the videotape obtained by CBS4, Arapahoe County’s only truck used for striping roads and highways can be seen in the yard gushing gallon after gallon of yellow and white paint on to the dirt as workers stand nearby.

Workers who recorded the tape can be heard saying, “This is what was directed by our foreman and our supervisor. We all said we felt uncomfortable doing this.”

CBS4 spoke to two of three men involved in the paint dumping. They asked their names not be used. Both claimed they strongly objected to the dumping and repeatedly voiced those objections to their supervisors but administrators in the Road and Bridge department ordered them to do it.

“All of us were disgusted,” one of the workers told CBS4.

In April CBS4 showed the videotape to Arapahoe County Public Works Director David Schmit and Steve Miller, environmental manager in Arapahoe County’s Risk Management Division.

“We would never authorize any conduct like that,” said Schmit after viewing the tape. “To see something like that is very disappointing. We’ll certainly have to investigate and take corrective measures.”

Miller said, “It disappointed me as well to see it. We don’t condone it. It’s not part of our procedures and policies. We will do a full investigation to get to the root cause.”

As that investigation is under way others are reacting with shock that the county would illegally dump excess paint.

maass investigation CBS4 Investigation Exposes Illegal Dumping By Arapahoe County

John Harris, right, talks with CBS4's Brian Maass (credit: CBS)

“It’s a horrible thing to do. Like I say, it’s obscene,” said John Harris, the owner of Belcaro Paint in Denver and a former paint chemist for Benjamin Moore paint. “It’s just blatant disregard for the earth, for the people in the community, for the laws. It’s terribly serious,” said Harris after watching the videotape. “I think some heads are going to roll over this. There’s no good excuse. You have to wonder with supervision like this, what else has been disposed of illegally or improperly.”

CBS4 tracked down where the paint was purchased and the material safety data sheet for the type of paint that was dumped on the ground. According to the warning label, the paints are categorized as non-carcinogenic, but the warning label also says, “This product contains trace amounts of a chemical(s) known to California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

That’s hardly comforting to Casey and Clint Decker, brothers who own a ranch about 100 yards away from where the paint dumping occurred. Like other residents in the area, their water supply comes from well water.

“I’m very surprised. I didn’t think government officials would ask for something like that to be done,” said Casey Decker. “I’m just concerned about it being in my water, my livestock drink it, our dogs drink it, if it’s contaminated, its contaminating everything we worked for.”

Decker said he planned to get his water tested to see if the dumped paint is having any impact.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Clint Decker after watching the CBS4 videotape. “I’ve never seen anything like that. It shocks me the county would endanger someone’s health to save a few dollars. They crack down on everybody about everything else. How come they can get away with something like that?”

Warren Smith with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the type of paint that was dumped is regulated as a solid waste.

“The Colorado Solid Waste Act prohibits illegal disposal of solid waste and allows for a range of enforcement actions including compliance orders and corrective actions with penalties up to $10,000 per day per violation, depending upon the specific circumstances. Other statutes may apply,” Smith wrote, “such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.”

Schmit said Arapahoe County has strict protocols for disposing of excess road paint. He said in this case, those rules and regulations were not followed. Schmit said what the CBS4 Investigation found is “unacceptable.”

Tom Butts, director of Environmental Health for the Tri- County Health Department, which oversees Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties, said his agency has begun a preliminary investigation into what CBS4 revealed.

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  • Scarlett

    Not a surprise.

  • Sally Nero

    EPA ought to file criminal charges!

    • Robert Northrop

      Certain politicians want to defund the EPA. This serves as an example why they should keep the agency up and running at full strength.

  • George Guidry

    The workers need to be fired & prosecuted right along with their bosses. They knew it was wrong and took video of themselves doing it. Typical government morons.

  • Thinking Citizen

    Everyone needs to take a step back and look at this one. Workers dump paint against protocol, video tape it, and submit it to the news agencies. It seems a lot more like disgruntled employees having their day in the spotlight than anything else. Of all organizations and companies, government agencies have MORE guidelines and regulations for doing anything — more red tape — so to believe that this is policy is just stupid. Yes, it happened. Yes, it was wrong. No, it’s not standard procedure. I’m betting this has never happened before, and will never happen again.

    • Somebody

      I have to agree with Thinking Citizen.

  • Chris C

    Whoah, don’t fire the workers. We need these wistle blowers or stuff like this goes unpelalized. Go ahead, fire their boss(es)! This order should have never made it down to the workers. But once it did, they just did their job! That’s what government jobs are like – don’t question, just do! Nonetheless, management should be held accountable!

  • Anonymous Joe

    I’d like to know who’s going to clean it up and just exactly who’s going to PAY for it! You just know the taxpayers are going to foot the bill.

    But what’s probably even more disturbing are these employee’s past!

    I don’t know who’s there now but I do know at least TWO other employees in the past had a serious drug addiction problem and one of them even had a criminal record! Did anyone with News4 look?

    Why can’t honest clean people (clean background) work there instead of these sleazy goons? Why is this department and all other manual labor related departments in nearly every local government treated more or less as a half-way houses for ex-convicts?! Why don’t they do more regular drug testing or background investigations?! (Had anyone done that this story might not ever have happened.)

    • Common Sense

      WOW Joe glad to know you are perfect!!

      Bet you never ever made mistakes in life!!
      Bet if the shoe was on other foot your and were given a second chance you would be grateful.

      But like so many self righteous folks out there you can group all ex-convicts in same boat.
      Believe it or not some do change not all but some do!!!!!

  • Somebody

    If the MSDS sheet stated that in California that the paint could cuase cancer and other health problems, then why are we using this paint on our roadways?

  • Jackie T.

    Everything in California contains trace amounts of chemicals that could cause cancer.

  • George Guidry

    Chris C writes:
    “Whoah, don’t fire the workers. We need these wistle blowers or stuff like this goes unpelalized.”

    In this case, the WORKERS are the ones who committed the infraction. While a boss (or bosses) may have instructed them to dump the paint, the workers clearly knew it would be wrong to do so; they chose to do it anyway. These clowns aren’t whistle blowers – they’re perpetrators They need to be fired and prosecuted. If management knew of this dumping (or ordered it), they also need to be fired and prosecuted.

    PS: What’s with the huge surplus of paint anyway? The citizens paid for that paint. Why was it being wasted in the first place? Heads need to roll in Arapahoe County!!

  • B. Dover


  • Lisa McAllister

    Am I missing somthing here?? The workers were doing what they were told to do by there boss. HMMM so how are they at fault? I am sure that disiplinary action and possibly termination of employment could have been the result if they had been insubordinate and refused to do the job. Who can afford not to have a job right now? KUDO’s for them video taping the incident and bringing it to the attention of News4. If they are let go they will have a heck of a lawsuit…

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