Terry Gaskin glanced out the window of a downtown Circle K last Wednesday afternoon and witnessed the best-documented spill in the history of Phoenix.
What apparently was a truckload of documents tumbled off a vehicle as it sped through the intersection of Third Street and Thomas.
Clouds of paper, whipped by the wind and traffic, swirled around nearby houses and businesses. Thousands of pages, along with notebooks and binders, clogged the intersection just as rush hour was getting under way.
When the dust settled, and Gaskin walked outside to survey the litter (much of which wound up in the parking lot of the Circle K, which he manages), he discovered what turned out to be an astounding coincidence.
The documents that were spilled onto the road concerned various past toxic spills linked to Motorola. Many of the papers related to two Superfund pollution sites in Phoenix and Scottsdale associated with Motorola. Among the records were reports of investigations commissioned by the electronics giant concerning groundwater pollution at its plants and proposed cleanup plans. Several of the documents bore the name of Dames and Moore, a consulting firm hired by Motorola.
Looking as if it had been run over several times was a red binder containing a copy of Arizona's environmental-protection laws.
It's unclear exactly who spilled the documents. (Motorola officials say they're checking into it.)
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At the time, Gaskin says, he telephoned both Motorola and Dames and Moore after seeing their names on the litter. Before long, workers who Gaskins says were from Motorola and Dames and Moore arrived and stuffed most of the spill into large plastic garbage bags. The cleanup was over in an hour or so.
But not before a news junkie we'll call Fred stopped at the Circle K to buy a soft drink. Naturally curious, Fred picked up one of the papers in the parking lot. He recalls his reaction: "My gosh! The paper was about carcinogens!"
Fred shoveled hundreds of pages of the records into his car and, in a fit of public service, delivered them to New Times.