TOMAHAWK, Ky. – A recent report from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet indicates that recent neon yellow discoloration reported in the Rockhouse Fork stream was caused by totes used for trash collection containing yellow traffic marking paint.
Discoloration in the Rockhouse Fork in Martin County, Ky. stream was first reported on April 11 and concerned an area of approximately a quarter of a mile. An initial survey of the stream identified no potential sources for the discoloration.
Further investigation on April 12 and 15 led to the observation of numerous totes containing yellow paint residue being used by residents for trash collection. On April 1, Martin County residents were required to participate in mandatory trash collection. The report states, “residents in the area stated that Martin County had just begun county wide trash pick-up and they had obtained the totes to use for trash storage.”
The report continues stating, “It was during this time that numerous Intermodal Bulk Containers (IBCs) were seen and noted by personnel as being used for trash collection. These IBCs or ‘totes’ are 275 gallon plastic containers housed in metal frames, and used to ship bulk qualities of various liquid materials. Personnel documented roughly 15 of these containers at residences alone Rockhouse Fork. Two local vendors have been found selling these containers. One vendor was selling IBCs on site that had been used to ship blue laundry detergent. The other vendor had IBCs on site that were used to ship ‘Waterborne Fast Dry Traffic Marking Paint’ in yellow and white. Many of the IBCs contained several gallons of liquid paint residue…”
The report states that the vendor of the totes was contacted and stated that the totes were purchased in Fort Gay W.Va. and were being resold for $50. The vendor was advised to stop selling the totes until “a solution could be found for dealing with the liquid paint residue contained in the totes.”
Officials believe that the discoloration is a result from paint residue left in the totes for many reasons. The report states, “The most plausible hypothesis is that the source of the discolored water is related to one of the IBCS that contained yellow paint residual. It is believed that one of these containers with paint residual was rinsed out and the yellow paint was discharged to Rockhouse Fork. Several pieces of evidence support this hypothesis. The most basic comparison is the yellow color observed in the stream compared to the color of paint residue found in several IBCs. Some reports indicated a brilliant or florescent green color observed in the stream. This observation can be accounted for based on the natural, milky-green color of most surface streams in Kentucky. The greenish water coupled with bright yellow pigment would give the impression of a bright green hue. Another observation that supports this hypothesis is that the IBCs were found for sale still containing up to several gallons of liquid paint residual. Perhaps the strongest evidence is the concentration of titanium found in the paint and in the other two water samples that were collected on April 11, when the water was discolored. Titanium Oxide is an active ingredient in this paint, and is specifically listed on the outside of each container. Final analysis of the paint samples obtained by personnel indicates titanium concentration at 32.9 mg/l. This concentration is consistent with titanium levels reported by the paint manufacture… Although titanium was found in a third water sample collected on April 15, it was nearly ten times lower than concentrations indicated in the initial complaint samples.”
At this time, the report indicates that no one has been identified as being responsible for the release of paint residue and the discoloration of the stream.
The report also stresses that no aquatic life was harmed during the discoloration event and that no “substantive environmental damage has occurred due to this release.”
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)