A Fond du Lac County Highway Department employee mistakenly deposited almost 30 gallons of watered-down yellow road paint into the Fond du Lac River in May. A passerby’s report of a “yellow cloud” in the water is what tipped local firefighters off to the incident.
Ordinarily, traffic marking paint like this would be washed and treated in a separate sanitary sewer. Fond du Lac County Highway Commissioner Tom Janke told Fox 11 News that an employee mistakenly washed the paint down the wrong drain.
“There is a close proximity where our storm sewer and our sanitary sewer meet. Where we wash that truck out is where our wash bay is located at the end of the building, and at times vehicles get just outside that building, and during clean up somehow that substance got into the storm sewer,” Janke said.
When a passerby report of a “yellow cloud” in the river came in, Fond du Lac firefighters responded with a full cleanup task force. Additional precautions, such as hazardous materials equipment, were brought onto the scene in an effort to clean the traffic marking paint out of the water as soon as possible.
Traffic marking paint like this is typically used on roadways and parking lots. Though it’s a big industry — worth approximately $454 million in 2014 alone — caution must be practiced when dealing with such substances.
Upon encountering the spill, Division Chief Troy Haase and his crew immediately got to work.
“It came out of the river. We basically try to dam it up as close as we could to the river,” Haase told ABC 2 News on the scene of the spill. “They have it shut down so we can start to recover what’s left in the sewer.”
According to fire officials, the paint isn’t toxic to humans. Regardless, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was contacted as an additional precaution to assess the amount of damage done to the local water system.