FLORIDA - State Agency Looks Into Paint Spill at Lakeland Pond

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Title: State Agency Looks Into Paint Spill at Lakeland Pond

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

By WILL VASH The Ledger

LAKELAND -- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is investigating how paint got into a stormwater pond on Lakeland's north side that flows into Lake Gibson.

The paint spill appears to be small, possibly just a commercial cleaning crew washing their paint brushes, but city officials and the state environmental agency take it seriously.

City Lakes Coordinator Gene Medley said a high concentration of water-based paint can be hazardous to fish in lakes where runoff flows.

"If you get a certain concentration (of water-based paint), it's toxic to just about everything, Medley said.

The private pond is located behind the Shoppes of Lakeland on the east side of U.S. 98 North. The land and mall are owned by Michi

gan based Ramco-Gershenson Inc.

Jane Urquhart-Donnelly, an emergency response coordinator with the division of law enforcement of the DEP, said the agency got an anonymous call Monday saying that a painting crew was hosing off brushes into the small retention pond behind the shopping center.

Water from the pond eventually makes its way to Lake Gibson via pipes and canals, Medley said.

City officials, who were also notified by an anonymous caller, found empty paint buckets once filled with water-based white paint and a running water hose. The small stormwater pond had turned milky white.

"It's definitely an illegal action," Urquhart-Donnelly said. "If we can identify the responsible parties, then we can take action."

Frank Robinson, owner of Robinson Painting in Winter Haven, called DEP officials Tuesday and said he would take full responsibility for the cleanup, Urquhart-Donnelly said. She said Robinson told her the workers were supposed to clean their brushes into a drum and he promised it wouldn't happen again.

Robinson could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Urquhart-Donnelly said penalties for illegal dumping range from a warning to being charged with a felony.

It is against the law to pour excess paint into water systems or on the ground in Florida.

Labels on eight 1-gallon cans sitting near a drain leading to the stormwater pond described the substance as acrylic indoor/outdoor "tinting white" paint.

Jeff Wood, the city's solid waste manager, said Lakeland sponsors four drives a year to collect hazardous waste such as used paint. The next drive is April 8 at George Jenkins High School.

Old paint can also be dropped off at the Polk County landfill.

Kathleen Shaffer, regional media director for Ramco-Gershenson, said her company was working with the DEP.

"We are trying to gather information on what happened at this point," Shaffer said. "We are certainly cooperating."

) 2000 The LedgerQuestions? Problems? Suggestions? online@theledger.com http://www.theledger.com/local/local/29dump.htm


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