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State says printer's ink colored Connellsville creek

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Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 6:03 p.m.

A trail of blue ink along a Fayette County highway helped investigators determine that potentially toxic printer's ink — not concrete dye — turned a Fayette County creek blue in November.

The unnatural blue color was clearly visible for several hours on Nov. 7 in Connellsville-Breakneck Run, which runs along Buttermore Boulevard in Connellsville Township, near Meidel's Restaurant and Grasso's Greenhouse.

Investigators initially traced the source to a house on Breakneck Road in the township, where they at first determined that blue concrete dye from a home-improvement project made its way into the creek.

After fielding phone calls from witnesses who reported seeing a trail of blue ink on Route 119, investigators with the state Department of Environmental Protection identified the source as improperly disposed printer's ink from an envelope-manufacturing facility, said John Poister, DEP spokesman.

“We saw traces of it on the highway from the plant to the concrete place, then from the concrete place to the property,” Poister said.

Poister said the ink trail stretched from National Envelope in Upper Tyrone to the residence of Rodney Allen in Connellsville Township. National Envelope had contracted with Allen to dispose of their excess ink, Poister said, but Allen did not do so in accordance with DEP regulations.

“He collected the ink in a large plastic vat mounted on the back of a truck, and his idea was to encase the ink in concrete and bury it, which is not a method approved by DEP,” Poister said. “As he drove the truck to the concrete plant, he left a trail of blue ink on the highway. They poured the concrete into the vat, displacing the ink, and it leaked out of the truck.”

Poister said investigators followed the ink trail from the concrete plant to Allen's property. There, they learned that “as he offloaded the concrete and ink mixture, more of it sloshed into the creek,” he said.

Contacted Monday by phone, Allen denied knowledge of the incident.

“I don't know nothing about it,” Allen said. “All we did with that corporation was take their waste paper.”

Poister said some types of printer's ink contain lead and other toxic substances, but it's not yet known if the ink that went into the creek caused any environmental damage. No fish kills were reported, but investigators are continuing to monitor the creek, he said.

National Envelope will be issued a notice of violation for failure to properly dispose of a potentially toxic substance, Poister said. It has not yet been determined whether any fines will be imposed.

“Our primary goal here is to ensure that from here on, National Envelope hires contractors who will properly dispose of the ink or any other by-products they have,” Poister said.

Poister said approved methods for disposal of printer's ink are recycling, burning in an environmentally safe incinerator, and burial in an approved landfill after the ink has been dried.

“You can't just pour it down the sewer. You can't just put it in a plastic bag for your municipal waste hauler,” Poister said. “It has to be done properly.”

No one from National Envelope returned a phone call seeking comment.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media.

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