In the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 56 five-gallon buckets of paint were dumped into Walhalla Ravine. Several buckets smashed open, leaking into the creek.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 56 five-gallon buckets of paint were dumped into Walhalla Ravine. Several buckets smashed open, leaking into the creek.

"It was a very malicious dumping," said Bill Palmer, supervisor of special investigations for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. "You couldn't have tried to make a bigger mess than these people did."

Vacuum trucks were called in to siphon as much of the latex paint from the creek as possible, Palmer said, but the paint mixed with the water quickly, leaving some to flow downstream.

"Some of it got by," Palmer said. "It was hard to contain it all."

Responders from the EPA and the Environmental Enforcement Division of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office also flushed the creek, and there shouldn't be any lasting damage from the dumping of the paint, he said.

The EPA is now working with the Sheriff's Office to find those responsible for the buckets of paint.

This type of dumping, in which people appear to have driven into the ravine in the middle of the night and thrown buckets of environmentally hazardous waste from the sides of a truck, has become increasingly rare, Palmer said, making the case in Walhalla Ravine somewhat unusual.

"This is an old-fashioned midnight dumping case, which we don't see much of any more," Palmer said.

The perpetrator, or perpetrators, has not been identified, and Palmer said investigators are relying on the ravine's neighbors to bring forward some clues.

Many residents were out while the ravine was being cleaned up Oct. 23, asking questions about the crime.

"I know they want to see who did this get caught," Palmer said.

Those responsible for the contamination of the ravine could be charged with either open dumping, a felony that could result in fines between $10,000 and $25,000, or pollution of waters, a misdemeanor that carries a smaller fine, Palmer said.

It's likely that restitution also would be sought to cover the cost of the cleanup, which is expected to have cost thousands of dollars, he said.

Palmer said what stuck in his mind about the dumping was that it seemed as though those who illegally disposed of the paint cans seem to have thrown them as hard as possible into the creek bed to break them open intentionally.

"You couldn't have done it worse," Palmer said. "It was almost like somebody wanted to attack that ravine."

Anyone with information about the dumping of the paint buckets is encouraged to call the Environmental Enforcement Division of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office at (614) 871-5322 or the EPA at (800) 282-9378.