The Case of the Mishandled Motor Oilposted
This is the first in our series of posts about illegal dumping cases. Need a backgrounder on our illegal dumping program? We’ve got a blog post about that!
Picture this: You’re headed to an appointment and make a wrong turn. As you wait to make a U-turn back into traffic, you witness a crime.
It may sound like the start of a true crime podcast, but for our Environmental Protection Lead Worker, Rick, it was just the start of a new illegal dumping case. The crime in question? The motorist who filed the complaint with us said he was waiting to turn back into traffic when someone walked alongside his vehicle with a pan of oil and proceeded to dump it into a small hole in the manhole cover. The motorist reported the violation.
Responding to an illegal dumping site is a team effort.
Rick, our staffer who works on illegal dumping, looped in the City of Madison Engineering team, who headed to the site with a vactor truck. These trucks are like huge, powerful vacuum cleaners that can suck up the oil from the sewer.
After removing the oil, the crew power washed the sewer line. The wastewater generated from the cleaning process is also saved and stored on the truck. The Engineering team then takes the wastewater to a facility where they treat it with an oil/water separator before safely discharging it to the sanitary sewer. Here’s a look at the sewer before and after they cleaned it:
This program and the work of our team and City of Madison Engineering help prevent harmful chemicals from getting into our lakes.
We rely on people like the motorist to let us know when illegal dumping happens. If this issue had not been reported, runoff from rain would have flushed the material down the storm sewer system to Warner Lagoon, and ultimately, Lake Mendota.
Was anyone punished for dumping the motor oil?
The sewer was next to a car service station and the business owner was cited and fined $313. Our ordinance has an escalator clause, meaning that if this same business does it again, the next violation is $650 and third and subsequent violations (in a 5-year period) are about $1330. In addition to these citations and fees, the business owner will be billed by Engineering for their costs from the cleanup effort. Engineering is reworking the sewer structure with a lockable cover to prevent further dumping, and this work will also be charged to the business owner (see before and after of the temporary locking pin in place). Crime doesn’t pay!
You can report any possible violations in Dane County to us.
Anyone can report a concern or possible violation, as you read about in this case! We have the authority to address threats to surface water quality in Madison and Dane County. We’ll ask for some basic details about what happened, like a description of what you saw and when.
Reporting possible violations is easy, either by online form or by phone.
To report a concern in Dane County, fill out an online report or call (608) 266-4821.