County fights illegal dumps

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2003

Though the county has recently boasted of some successes in combating illegal dumping of trash in rural areas, one Pike County woman says the problem illegal dumps are getting worse - not better

"There are illegal dumps on the road leading out to my house that have been there for years," said Debra Davis, who lives near Shellhorn.

Davis has been conducting a public relations campaign to draw attention to the dumps, which she said are not only unsightly, but dangerous.

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"There was a box of syringes down in the creek and some of them had blood in them," she said. "Not only does that water run along my property, but people actually fish in that water."

County officials say they are aware of the dumps, located off County Road 1117, and are working to eradicate them.

"I'm working on getting it cleaned up," said county Solid Waste Enforcement Officer Sam Green. "We are going to get several cleaned up at the same time. We've already cleaned it up twice, but it's an ongoing process."

Karen Berry, chair of the Pike County Commission, said she had not been contacted by Davis regarding the dumps, but said the county was working hard to clean them up and sent some syringes to the county drug taskforce for testing.

"We try to police. We tell people not to litter. You see our signs. We don't like the dumps. It costs extra money to clean them up," she said. "Sam is working as fast he can."

Davis said she had pulled names out of the trash, which includes large mattresses, sofas and other discarded debris. She wants to see the county prosecute the people whose names turn up in the garbage.

However, Green said he had some names from the refuse piles as well and said winning a court battle against people who litter can be tough.

"I got several names out of them about six or seven months ago," he said. "If you don't see them doing it, it's tough. If I can find three things with the same name on it, I'll try to get them in court. Other than that, it doesn't stand up too well."

Green said he had written approximately 15 citations in the past couple of years, but said the poor success rate in court was discouraging.

"We're trying to get with the Legislature to get a bill with teeth in it," he said, referring to efforts to step up prosecutions for dumping. "Then we can do a lot with it."

Criminal convictions aside, Green said the immediate threat of the medical waste was being taken care of.

"I've been out there with the county health department and we found seven [syringes]. They are going to send them off and test them, but there are no more left in the creek," Green said.

The remainder of the dump should be cleaned up by the first of the week, he said.

Still, Davis is not pleased with the responsiveness of county officials in dealing with the problem.

"I wish I could take that box of syringes and just take it down to the next Pike County Commission meeting on May 12 and show everybody," she said. "I don't know what makes me more mad: the people who dump their trash or the people who won't do anything about it."

However, Berry defended the county's determination to attack the problem.

"They get cleaned up and people start dumping again," she said. "We've spent more money cleaning up illegal dumps. Shellhorn, Needmore, Mt. Moriah: People just come in and trash it."

The dumps are tough to stop, she said, given the carelessness of people who would rather pollute than properly dispose of waste.

As the landscape is littered with everything from furniture to destroyed consumer electronics to rotted deer carcasses left behind by lazy hunters, Pike Countians are severely taxing the capabilities of government to clean up after them.

"We're doing the best we can," Berry said. "But they pop up overnight."