Randolph County oil spill irks many, puts several agencies to work

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RANDLEMAN, N.C. -- Randleman police, North Carolina Highway Patrol, Randleman Public Works and the Randleman Fire Department are all busy investigating and cleaning up after a big oil spill across the city Saturday night.

It's estimated that between 50-75 gallons of oil were illegally dumped behind a laundromat at a shopping center on Point South Road and Main Street. Oil was also discovered along several miles of Main Street and Business 220 near the Brennan Place mobile home park.

"At this time we're doing everything we can," said Randolph County Fire Marshall Michael Smith.

FOX8 received calls about the sticky mess the oil and sand put down in response to the spill was creating.

"I don't think there's any worry to be had in that area," said Smith. "I don't think you can receive any damage to vehicles if you run across it. You can clean it up -- soapy water will get rid of it."

Investigators are looking at video surveillance cameras in the area trying to get a definitive description of the vehicle used to dump the oil. It has been described as a dark-colored, pickup or SUV hauling a small trailer.

"I was in kind of in disbelief that they would dump oil and spread it like that. It's not a good idea," said Whitney Wilson, who saw the vehicle parked near the laundromat for 10-15 minutes before asking the two men around the truck if they needed help. She described one man as heavyset and the other as thinner.

"It disappoints me that someone, for one, would damage the environment like that and, two, you could have taken it and dumped it somewhere. You could have done something responsible with it," said Wilson.

Fire fighters said the spill was contained before it reached any waterway because it was reported quickly around 8:30 p.m.

Police said the likely charge for spilling that much oil is littering of hazardous materials, a class I felony. The penalty could be three months to one year in prison.

Responsible parties may also bear financial responsibility for cleaning the mess. So far, it's estimated that more than $500 have been spent in cleanup and labor costs, testing the oil to make sure it's not something other than oil could force those costs to rise.

Many who watched the cleanup Monday could only shake their head and wonder why the oil wasn't disposed of properly.

"Put yourself in someone's place," said Shirley Patrick, a Randleman resident. "They see this, they see that oil spilling out they should to try and stop it -- that's natural. It's just ridiculous."