Sunday, March 4, 2012 / 8:56 am

Rural Life: What To Do With the Paint Thinner

Mother Nature reminds me that we are all connected.

by Donna Schoenkopf

Mother Nature
Mother Nature

I am having trouble with the issue of paint thinner.

I will not pour it down the drain.  That goes to my septic system which goes to the edge of the forest on my east and down to the aquifer below me from which Smitty and Neighbor Jim and Steve & Sheila get their water.  And that's just in our tight little neighborhood.

Orval & Shirley and I take rural water from the Pottawatomie County Rural Water District #3.  The water is scrutinized there.  We get (relatively) clean water. 

(I learned my lesson about water contamination from the United Farm Workers and local SoCal news back in the day.  Cancer clusters.  In agricultural areas.  Then “Erin Brokovich” came along.  No rural water for me, thanks.)

So I will not pour the paint thinner down the drain.

Nor out on the ground.

This is going to be difficult, I can tell.  And I should know better.  I KNOW about paint thinner and how bad it is for our planet.

Sustainable Shawnee and the City of Shawnee aren't having their local collection of poisons and toxins and other nasty things until much later this year.  So they're out.

So I bring the can in from the back porch and look on the back.

This is what it says:

    “Please consult the local, state and federal government pages in the phone book      and contact the environmental or waste mangement agency for proper disposal instructions.”

Wow.  That really helps.  Thank you, Corporate Interests!

So I look in the phone book.  In the black edged pages in the front which are the designated pages for governmental agencies.

I start with the City listings.  Crap.  Nothing that says “environmental” or “waste management” but there is “garbage collection.”

Hmmmm.  Not promising.  So I look under “Pottawatomie County.”  Nope.  Nothing.  Not even garbage collection.  Then I look up “State of Oklahoma” and zowie!  They have an “Environmental Quality Department”  with a Shawnee phone number.  But it's Sunday. 

Then I look under “Federal.”  And then, once again, I thank the United States Government, protector of the people and the planet for being there when I need them.  There in bold black print is “Environment.”  And they even have a phone number (888 ASK USGS) which I call. 

I get a pleasant woman's voice on an answering machine which tells me that I have reached the U.S. Geological Survey Department which is a federal science agency.  Then she asks which of these I want:

1. To order products.  Have your credit card ready. (I am intrigued.)
2. Information about maps.  (Hmmm.  John would like this one.)
3. To speak to a science information specialist.  (Eric would like that one.)
4. For general information on federal recreational passes.  (We all want some a dat!)
5. For aerial photography or satellite imagery.  (Dang.  I would love this stuff.)
6. To reach the USGC Library.  (This is the BEST agency!)

Well, that was a pleasant exercise but it's not what I want.

I have now lost interest.  I can't call anyone today anyway.  It's Sunday.

So I decide to take my shower.  Under my Outdoor Shower.  It's the absolute perfect time of the morning for this – just when the sun comes up over my eastern forest, just before 8:00 am.  When I turn the water on to warm it up, the whole Outdoor Shower area sparkles in the sun.

I love this place.

So I pick out my clothes for the day, lay them on the bed, undress, grab my towel, and jump under the shower.  I look down at my feet and see good, pure water washing over them and down between the cracks in the pavers and then watch as the rivulets glid gently a little way down the hill until it disappears into the earth down, down, down to the aquifer below my feet.


Shower done, I grab my towel and slide open the sliding glass door and step inside and BAM!  Am hit with the smell of spray paint and enamel paint and water-based paint.

No wonder I have a damn headache this morning.  Jeez.

The dogs have been sneezing every time they come in the house to get the toxic smell out of their noses.

All of this tsurris is because of my painting the giant mural for the Democratic Club's fundraiser.  And even though my house is one big room and three of the four sides of the house are a series of sliding glass doors, and even though I'd opened them all when I was working on the mural and always have the overhead fans on for air circulation, and even though I stopped using the spray paint in the house, the smell is still there.

Then I realize that even though I was considered an environmental person when I lived in the City and thought of myself that way (o, the hubris!) my rural way of life has THANKFULLY put me face to face with Mother Earth. 

I should have been waaaaaaayyyy more careful about buying the paint. 

Fer sure.

Outdoor Shower
Outdoor Shower
Donna Schoenkopf recently retired from teaching at 61st Street School in South Central Los Angeles, and has moved back to Oklahoma, where she spent her teens.


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