DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has notified Arapahoe County Commissioners that a county crew may have violated state laws and regulations when they dumped gallon after gallon of road striping paint in a remote yard in eastern Arapahoe County.
State health administrators have told Arapahoe County they need to take water and soil samples and ultimately, clean up their mess.
“We’ve never found a situation where a county has been dumping road paint on the ground,” Warren Smith of the Department of Health said. “We don’t believe there’s an immediate threat to the public health but we are asking for ground water and soil samples to verify that.”
The paint dumping was exposed in a CBS4 investigation earlier this month. Videotape broadcast in the expose’ showed Arapahoe County public works employees pumping out yellow and white paint from a road striping truck onto the ground about 100 yards from homes were residents rely on ground water for drinking.
The dumping was at a yard leased by Arapahoe County known as the Kiowa-Bennett yard. 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.”
In the state health letter to Arapahoe County commissioners, the CDPHE wrote, “The information gained during the inspection indicates that you may have violated Colorado’s solid waste laws.” The notice goes on to say that the day after the CBS4 investigation aired, CDPHE sent inspectors to the Kiowa-Bennett yard to see what they could find. They reported finding paint stains along with “residual solids from the paint waste.”
“You essentially verified what we (CBS4) reported?” Smith was asked. “That’s correct,” he responded.
The state has given Arapahoe County 30 days to submit soil samples and a remediation plan and 60 days to “submit a groundwater characterization plan. Depending on what the groundwater characterization data shows, the facility may be requested to perform groundwater remediation as well.”
Arapahoe County Communications Director Andrea Rasizer issued a statement Monday afternoon saying, “We want to assure Arapahoe County residents we are taking the necessary steps to make sure this does not happen again and that our employees understand and follow the procedures for disposing of paint. Our internal investigation is underway and we hope to wrap it up within the next 30 days.”
The state health department investigation notes that Arapahoe County refused to allow state investigators to speak to employees involved in the incident. “Inspectors asked to be able to speak with the paint crew … but that request was denied,” the report says.