Overspray Adds Blue Hue to Florida River

Overspray Adds Blue Hue to Florida River
Blue Paint in Orange River, Florida

BUCKINGHAM, FL – May 29, 2024 – Blue paint littered in the Orange River has neighbors seeing red. Although this was paint, overspray is a big concern when spraying any material. Always take proper measures to protect the surrounding areas when spraying.

The bright blue paint got in the water when Lee Department of Transportation crews were painting the underside of a bridge that crosses over the river.

Lee County told WINK News the crew, “performing routine maintenance on the bridge Tuesday experienced some paint overspray due to wind,” and added, “They immediately set up control measures to contain the paint overspray and notified Lee County Natural Resources and our partners at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”

The Department of Environmental Protection has filed a notice of pollution for this river.

Neighbors said it wasn’t until they called attention to the problem that the crews who caused the mess came out and started cleaning it up. Neighbors saw them use a cloth to soak up the paint, scoop some out and put in oil booms.

Betsy Burdette, who was spotted kayaking around the blue paint, said it’s too late. The paint is here.

“It’s mostly along the banks. It stuck to a lot of the leaves and the plants. It’s down in the water,” Burdette said.

Kelly Grey’s home backs up to the water. She said it looked like toxic blue lily pads.

“It was bright blue, and it was obviously there was a paint smell in the air,” Grey said.

Grey confronted the crew first. “I asked him if they were aware that there was a large amount of paint up and down the river floating in the river. And he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Is this paint marine safe?’ And he said, ‘I’ve no idea.'”

Lee County hasn’t answered our question about what paint was used or if it was environmentally safe.

Dr. Nora Demers, an Associate Professor of Biology at FGCU, said she needs to know what paint it is to determine risk but said.

“Obviously, any manmade thing that we put into the environment is going to have more negative consequences than positive,” Demers said.

Demers added, “If there was enough paint present that they needed to put in a boom or something to prevent it from spreading, then that in itself is an indication that the impact is higher than it would have been if it was just a little bit of overspray from the wind.”

On her kayak, pointing to the river bank, Betsy Burnette said the paint on the plants around the river worries her for the manatees.

“They almost always have a baby with them. And when they eat, they kind of throw their bodies up on the side of the banks, and they eat the greenery,” Burnette said.

Dr. Demers said, “If manatees are consuming this, then that’s not good. I mean, I can’t think of anybody that would think that it was good.”

Grey noticed the blue splotches in her backyard first and then the smell.

“So anything that smells means that it’s likely an environmental endocrine disruptor, so in paints, they often use VOCs, volatile organic compounds, and these help with the ability of the paint to do its job,” said Dr. Demers. “But in the past decade or so, they have removed volatile organic compounds from paints that we use in homes, specifically, because the damage that they do to human health has become so obvious.”

In the long term, Burnette worries about their drinking water.

“I’m worried about our Well, we have a shallow well,” Burnette said.

Dr. Demers needs to know specifically what paint is used to determine whether potential chemicals can break down into the water and shallow wells neighbors drink from.

“I can tell you that research that I’m doing about environmental endocrine disruptors is finding very high concentrations of chemicals in people’s drinking water wells that are drinking from those shallow wells,” said Dr. Demers. “It’s not necessarily the aquifer, but it’s groundwater that’s percolating through the soil. And so, absolutely, anything we do on the land ends up in the water. It’s that simple.”

WINK News reporter Liz Biro collected samples of the paint and plans to get it tested.

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