Thanks to an oily litterbug, Mansfield taxpayers got an extra bill April 15.
Early that morning, the city’s water utilities department discovered an estimated 15 to 20 gallons of motor oil had been dumped in Pond Branch on the east side of Sycamore Street, behind Blessing Funeral Home and bordering the extra parking lot at Steven’s Garden & Grill.
“We don’t know exactly when the oil was dumped, but it had apparently been there for a little while,” said Howard Redfearn, the city’s environmental manager. “I got the call about 8:30 a.m. on the way into work and the sewer department had already started putting down sand to prevent it from going downstream.”
Redfearn contacted the Cleaning Guys, a Fort Worth-based Hazmat emergency company, which arrived to start cleaning up the site by 9 a.m., he said.
Redfearn doesn’t think the spill was accidental, he said.
“It looks like someone stood on the bridge and poured oil into the creek,” he said. “The sewer line had splatter marks on top of it.”
The cost to clean up the site, which stretched 12 feet wide and 180 feet long on Pond Branch, was $4,193, said Redfearn, who said he thought the tab could have gone as high as $15,000 and the damage could have been much greater.
Pond Branch leads to the pond at Katherine Rose Memorial Park, which feeds into Walnut Creek and eventually into Joe Pool Lake.
“Eventually, that would have led to water that people use and increased the cost for water treatment,” he said.
And it could have destroyed plants and animals in and along the creek.
“Anything that lives in the creek below the water surface has the potential of being suffocated,” Redfearn said. “Oil prevents oxygen from getting in the water. Amphibious animals like turtles, frogs and salamanders, it could get on their skin and poison them. The oil would have blocked the sunlight from aquatic plants and they would have died.”
The city doesn’t have any idea who dumped the oil, but if they are caught, they could end up with a big bill. In addition to the cost of the clean-up, the culprit would face a fine of up to $2,000 for violating a city ordinance, Redfearn said.
What really bothers Redfearn is that the city offers multiple free opportunities to dispose of motor oil during Household Hazardous Waste collections (the next is set for 9-11 a.m. May 17 at City Hall, 1200 E. Broad St.) and the opportunity to unload oil year-round at 6400 Bridge St. in Fort Worth. Many auto supply stores also offer free collection of used motor oil, he said.