The relentlessly absurd election news cycle of 2016 led many readers to be skeptical of an 18 October 2016 news account reporting that a bus chartered either by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or by the Hillary Clinton campaign had dumped human waste into a Georgia sewer:
— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) October 18, 2016
However, as the tweet embedded above demonstrated, the claims weren’t coming from fly-by-night fake news sites, but rather from legitimate news outlets such as Denver television station KUSA, who reported:
Hazmat crews in Gwinnett County were called to clean up waste left behind by a Democratic National Committee bus.
According to a Lawrenceville Police Department report, officers were called to the O’Reilly Auto Parts at 525 Grayson Highway after receiving reports that an RV was illegally dumping its sewage into the storm drain.
An employee of the auto parts store told the responding officer that he watched the RV stop in the turn lane of Grayson Highway in front of the store and spill raw sewage onto the roadway and into the storm drain.
Pictures taken by the store employee showed that the RV featured pictures of Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine.
The officer stated that a large amount of drying toilet paper was on the roadway where the RV had been and a “foul smell” was left in the air.
Gwinnett County Fire Hazmat units cleaned up the spill.
By the time the claim went national, media outlets such as the Washington Post began injecting levity into the story:
Through the window inside O’Reilly Auto Parts, manager Mike Robins witnessed it all.
He watched Tuesday morning, about 9:30, as a big blue bus advertising Hillary Clinton’s face eased up in front of his shop and parked on the side of Grayson Highway.
He watched, according to a police report obtained by Fox 5 Atlanta, someone get off that bus and fiddle with some sort of mechanism.
And he watched — then smelled — a thick liquid pour from the bus’s belly.
Then Robins pulled out his camera and started snapping photos.
He was about to expose the Democratic National Committee’s latest leak.
With respect to the veracity of the waste-dumping bus claim, a DNC spokesperson issued a statement on 19 October 2016 confirming the reports:
This was an unacceptable mistake and we apologize to the Lawrenceville community for any harm that was caused. We are taking corrective action with the charter bus company to prevent this from ever happening again and contacting local officials to determine the best course of action.
Atlanta station WAGA confirmed that police deemed the dumping action hazardous and said it constituted a city violation but added that the circumstances behind the dumping (i.e., whether it was intentional or due to equipment malfunction) had not yet been determined:
There is a violation, there is a city violation for dumping materials into the storm drain system, obviously this feeds into streams,” said Capt. Jeff Smith.
Police said they are working with the Gwinnett County Storm Water and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, to try to prevent the waste from entering the water supply.
The Lawrenceville Police Department opted to send the case to Georgia’s EPD, although admits there apparently was a violation.
“We’ll have to talk to the charter bus company and determine what happened and why,” said Kevin Chambers with Georgia’s EPD.
Chambers said he couldn’t speculate if there was a violation until they are able to fully determine what happened.