Illegal Dumping: A (not) Love Story
by Tim Dull
(Cambria County, PA, USA)
Example of illegal dump site
Having the unfortunate duties of looking over trash from a municipal aspect involves a lot of difficult tasks. One of these was undertaken during the Fall of 2009 and Spring of 2010 when our County was involved with a program to survey the scope of illegal dumping activity within the county borders.
Travelling every road, looking over every hillside, and almost literally leaving no stone unturned, we finally finished the work and were amazed at the scope of the problem. All told, over 250 dump sites were discovered.
What is an "illegal dump site" you ask? Simply put, it is any place where trash is thrown away in a manner not in accordance with the law. Those who dump their garbage over a river bank, off the side of the road, and in some cases, on their neighbor's property, are committing a crime against both people and nature. Trash should be handled properly through either disposal at a recognized landfill facility or through recycling efforts.
When it ends up in the "wilds", problems arise. Not only is trash an eyesore, it pollutes. When near a watershed area, liquids that can leach out of waste contaminates the water, causing harm to the local ecosystem. Other components may pollute the air and soils as well. For anyone who comes across an area or property that has dumping activity, there is often a severe risk of mechanical injury from sharp objects such as rusty metal appliances, nails and screws, sharp pieces of broken wood, or even something small like a glass bottle that can be a tripping and cutting hazard!
The big question remains on how to clean up these properties. From my experience, it does take a lot of time, effort, and money to accomplish this. On private property, it is often on the land owner to clean it up. If the property is truly abandoned and if nobody can be found at fault, it is on the local government to take care of the issue - at tax payer expense! Clean-up efforts involve the use of heavy equipment to haul debris, volunteers or workers to handle the waste, and storage capacity at landfills - all of which can be quite costly.
One word of caution to the noble individual: If you are motivated to "clean up" a property, please think twice before walking in with trash bags in-hand. The landowner can come back at you for theft of their property, and you could be taken to court for a myriad of offenses including trespassing and theft. It is best to organize a group or look for an existing group who is involved with clean-up efforts before taking on any endeavor solo.
Subscribe to our monthly e-mail newsletter, called USEFUL COMMUNITY PLUS, which provides you with short features or tips about timely topics for neighborhoods, towns and cities, community organizations, rural environments, and our international friends. Unsubscribe any time. Give it a try.