Enigma in the Alleyway


This is another installment in our series of blog posts about illegal dumping cases. Need a backgrounder on our illegal dumping program? We’ve got a blog post about that!

Our environmental health specialists can’t be everywhere at once, which is why we rely on tips to investigate possible illegal dumping mysteries. Illegal dumping is when someone disposes waste or other materials in a place they’re not supposed to – like the storm sewer. 

Liquid pools in an alleyway
A mysterious liquid pooled in an alleyway

Logan, one of our Environmental Health Specialists, got a tip on our environmental health line that wastewater was pooling in an alleyway. When he went to investigate, he saw pools of a brownish-red liquid. This told him there was lots of sediment in the liquid, which is a threat to the environment. 

Next, Logan checked the pH of the liquid. Liquids with extreme pH—either very high or very low—have a harsher impact on the environment. His test revealed a neutral pH, which means less danger to the environment and that cleanup will be less intensive. 

Looking around to get clues from the environment about the source, Logan noticed a contractor was working in the adjacent apartment building. He made contact and learned they were using a power saw to cut a large hole in the wall of the building. When contractors cut concrete or bricks, it’s typical to use a hose connected to the saw—this dampens the dust created by the saw and lessens the risk to the operator. However, this technique generates wastewater that a contractor must clean up properly. 

The good news is that the wastewater pooled in the alley and did not enter a storm inlet. The contractor had a wet-vac on site and was able to clean up the wastewater correctly, which prevented it from making its way to Lake Wingra with the next rain. 

Reporting Concerns or Possible Violations

You can report any possible violations in Dane County to us.

Anyone can report a concern or possible violation. 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.

This content is free for use with credit to Public Health Madison & Dane County .

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