Couple stuck with bill for illegal dump

COVINGTON - It's been said that oil and water don't mix, and Shannon Casale certainly knows that to be true.

Casale was out walking her property off Tanyard Road with her husband Saturday when they came upon a disturbing sight - someone had dumped between five and 10 gallons of motor oil into the spring that feeds a small pond on the Casale's property.

Concerned about contamination, the Casales called the local authorities, and learned that though the dumping was illegal, they were responsible for cleaning it up.

So the Casale's are busy at work, placing down pads, wheat straw and cedar chips to catch and absorb the oil. As of Monday afternoon, they had spent about $150, and planned to spend more on bags and barrels to contain the mess before it is hauled to the landfill.

The Casales opted not to hire professionals to do the cleanup, but are being advised by Dobbs Environmental Inc.

According to Jody Nolan, deputy director of emergency/risk management for Newton County, small spills, even illegal ones, are typically the property owner's responsibility.

"They're supposed to make every effort to clean up the spill if possible before other agencies get involved," Nolan said.

What constitutes a small spill depends on the type of chemical involved, he said. With motor oil, it's typically anything less than 55 gallons.

Nolan said the spill could have affected other waterways if it was not cleaned up, but now the impact should be minimal.

Motor oil is typically collected at recycling centers and burned or made into another usable products, he said. The Casales are not required to dispose of the material in barrels before it is dumped, Nolan said, but he suggested that as an easy transportation method.

Casale said she's disheartened that someone would be so inconsiderate, and wants to see the person or people responsible caught.

The area is a haven for wildlife, including turtles and raccoons, she said, and the spring has kept the pond full of water during the drought.

"It's a nice little pond. We stock it with fish. We're big environmental people," she said.

"We recycle all of our cans, all of our plastic. We don't even buy bottled water anymore."

Nolan said the case has been turned over to Newton County Code Enforcement in hopes of finding those responsible and possibly prosecuting.

"These people went to an effort to build a small pond on their property fed by an underground stream and for somebody to go 500 yards off the beaten path just to dump (oil) in the spring that feeds their pond, it's a shame," Nolan said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.