RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) is investigating the illegal dumping of multiple drums throughout Richmond and Henrico County.

Photos posted by VDEQ show upwards of 23 drums illegally dumped at one site. The drums are filled with “an unknown substance,” VDEQ said.

The substance appears to be a red-colored, viscous — albeit, slightly chunky — liquid.

Texas Avenue Site

8News crews at the scene of one of the illegal dumping spots — on Texas Avenue — report the unknown substance does not have a smell. In addition, no increase in insects or wildlife was seen flocking to the substance. The substance is described as an oily, gelatinous material.

At least four barrels were observed at the Texas Avenue site. As 8News crews were at the scene, several cars containing Richmond City officials, Richmond Police, and Richmond Fire stopped by the dump site to observe the happenings.

“It doesn’t look safe. It at least doesn’t look natural. It doesn’t look like something that should be in this like wooded area,” Richmond resident, Ashley Brewer said. 

Williamsburg Road Site

A report from the VDEQ into one such dumping in Henrico County found 10 55-gallon drums were dumped behind a shopping center at 3302 Williamsburg Road. Of the 10 drums, the substance from inside three or four of the large containers had been dumped on the ground. The substance was identified as “plantapon,” a mild surfactant blend often used in baby soaps, body washes and face washes.

In addition, the report states a couple of 5-gallon containers of cosmetic pigment were also found at the Williamsburg Road site.

Highland Park Site:

At a dumping site on Pollock Street in Highland Park, many smaller drums were found labeled to be containing substances such as ‘incroquat behenyl tms,’ a substance commonly used in hair and skin care, and ‘keralenis’ a product used in hair relaxer production.

The mystery substance is already causing concern for residents around the dump sites.

“It looks syrupy, and it was shiny, like it was still wet and viscous. And it just went across the entire alley and had pulled, and I can see where a big barrel had been thrown into the woods, where the substance came from,” Richmond resident Emily Monro said. “We’re worried, everybody that lives here. We all are, like careful with kids and dogs and we’re all park users and we care so much about our parks that we really don’t want it to be anything toxic.” 

“This just seems to be the cherry on top of an issue that’s been slowly but surely growing, at least in my neighborhood. And I really would like to see some drastic change. That would be well received,” Richmond resident James D’antonio added. 

An ongoing investigation into the dumping is being conducted by VDEQ, the City of Richmond and Henrico County. The report by the VDEQ states a contractor has been hired for cleanup.

Anyone with any information on the illegal dumping is asked to email