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San Joaquin County Hit With Paint Dumping Epidemic

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LINDEN (CBS13) – Rain is complicating a pollution problem in San Joaquin County, where people may be deliberately contaminating waterways.

Dozens of cans filled with paint have been thrown into county creeks and rivers. A section of Potter Creek in Linden was hit a total of four times.

“They are going above waterways and slamming buckets down and containers to make sure they break open into the waterway and banks,” said Michael Cockrell, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Operations.

“It’s a very deliberate attempt to make sure the ground and the waterways are contaminated.”

It’s happened eight times in the past three weeks, he said, mostly in the Linden area, with someone dumping as many as 50 paint cans at a time.

“You can see we have a cluster,” Cockrell said. “Most of these paints are blues and darker tints, quite a bit of the containers are very old, so we are not sure where the source is.”

The concern is that the wet weather will fill up creeks and the paint will travel to the delta and beyond, contaminating waterways.

As cleanup costs reach the $60,000 mark, the county is using a task force to catch the criminals. It also wants to education the community about the proper way to dispose of paint and other toxic chemicals.

“These people may not be scared away until caught,” Cockrell said. “But we really want average homeowners that have paint in their garages (to know) there are legal ways of handling it.”

The county is getting help from the state Department of Fish and Game. If caught, the perpetrator faces a long list of criminal charges and will be forced to pay for cleanup costs.

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