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Barrels of hazardous waste illegally dumped on SLO County road. Where did they come from?

Tribune - 2/13/2024

Feb. 13—Several drums of hazardous waste were dumped on Monterey Road in Paso Robles in December, the San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Works said in a Tuesday news release.

Five steel drums were found at a roadside turnout at Monterey Road on Dec. 18, the agency said. County Hazardous Materials responded to prevent and assess the potential hazard of the dumped material.

The barrels were removed after no liquid waste spillage or leaking was found at the scene, the release said. The barrels were transported to a secure location by a certified waste hauler.

Four of the five drums contained benzene, which the public works department describes as "a toxic, highly flammable substance."

Benzene is used in a variety of industrial manufacturing processes, the release said. Its disposal is tightly regulated as hazardous waste.

It is unclear at this time where the barrels came from and what industrial process the benzene was involved in.

"Dumping barrels of hazardous waste along our public roadways is simply unacceptable," county Public Works principal environmental specialist Ann Fletcher said in the release. "Disposal of benzene is regulated for good reason — it is flammable, toxic and it's an environmental pollutant."

Though the barrels were found in December, it is unclear when exactly they were illegally dumped, according to the release. All identifying information on the drums were removed and there was not enough video surveillance of the area to determine the source.

The agency asked anyone who may have information regarding the illegal dumping to call 805-781-5252.

"We take the safety of the traveling public very seriously," Deputy Director of San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Works John Waddell said in the release. "It is important to hold the generators of this waste accountable. This should not have happened and we want to prevent it from happening again."

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