Local News

May 10, 2014

Trashing the county

Dumping and littering mar Whitfield roads

Norman Barashick says he can’t understand how someone can change a baby’s diaper and just leave the dirty one on the ground.

“I’ve seen one in the parking lot at (Dalton) City Hall. I’ve seen them in grocery store parking lots, and if you pick up litter by the side of the road, you’ll see plenty of them there,” he said. “You know someone just changed the baby in the car and then tossed it on the ground or threw it out the window.”

Barashick, executive director of the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Management Authority, says roadside litter is an issue across Whitfield County.

“You look all along the roads and you see cans and bottles and cups that have been thrown from a vehicle,” he said. “Someone had a cup of coffee or a soft drink or something, and when they were finished, they couldn’t be bothered to take it home or even to their next stop and put it in the trash. They just tossed it out the window.”

Jessie Palmer lives on the South Dixie Highway and sees the problem every day just outside her home.

“I’ve picked up bottles and cans and sacks,” she said. “But the worst is when I come out and find a bag of garbage has busted all over the place. Somebody was taking it to the dump and didn’t tie it down and it blew off their truck.”

Litter piles up on the more traveled roads from passing motorists tossing out small items. But Whitfield County Public Works Director Dewayne Hunt says the county’s back roads have a litter problem that can be just as large, though very different in origin.

“People search them out, hidden roads that aren’t traveled too much. Dead end roads. Places that don’t have a lot of houses on them,” he said. “They dump bags of trash. Sometimes a dozen of them. They dump sofas. They dump mattresses. They dump lots of tires.”

Hunt has a crew out each Saturday, three people from his department and anywhere from two to a dozen people sentenced to community service, working around six to eight hours each day.

Hunt says they try to clean up these sites as soon as they are made aware of them because they tend to attract more trash.

“If someone is driving down the road and sees a bunch of cans and bottles, they are more likely to toss their own bottle out,” he said. “If someone sees a place where somebody has dumped a sofa, they are more likely to bring a bunch of bags of garbage there.”

Through April, those crews covered 169.3 miles of county roads and picked up enough trash to fill 888 bags, as well as 188 tires. All told, they picked up 20.5 tons of litter.

“And we are just really covering the big stuff that we get calls about,” Hunt said.

On one recent Saturday, the public works crews picked up 52 tires at a site off Old Chattanooga Road. Just two were car or truck tires. The rest were tractor-trailer tires or tires for heavy equipment.

“That’s just one place that someone called in about,” Hunt said.

Officials say when they discover so many tires it’s obvious that it’s not an individual dumping them.

“If it’s a couple of tires or four tires, then it’s likely that someone changed their tires and didn’t want to pay the fee to dispose of them,” Barashick said. “The state of Georgia doesn’t allow tires to be placed in landfills. They have to be taken to a recycler which charges a fee. “We’ve had people bring tires here, and when we tell them it will cost $2 (a tire) for us to take them, because we have to pay to have them recycled, well, a lot of people don’t want to pay that. They leave here, then later we’ll find a couple of tires a half mile down the road, and we know what happened.”

But when it’s dozens of tires, it’s likely some business that doesn’t want to pay the costs to manage those tires.

And Barashick says they often don’t just dump them by the side of the road.

“They’ll find an undeveloped piece of property. There may be an abandoned driveway or a dirt road leading onto it. And they’ll just drive up on it and dump things,” Barashick said. “We’ve seen people with gated property, but someone has cut the lock to the gate and dumped as many as three truckloads on their property.”

And when those tires are dumped on private property, it becomes the owner’s responsibility to clean them up.

“We try to work with those property owners. The ones who have gates and locks and have done what they are supposed to do, we may accept those tires at no cost,” Barashick said.   “But when people don’t take those steps, at what point do you say ‘You helped create an attractive nuisance.’ We can’t get to where anybody can just drive up and say ‘These were illegally dumped’ and we pay for the costs of disposing of their tires.”

County ordinances call for a fine of up to $1,000 for littering and illegal dumping. And Barashick says that under state law businesses caught illegally dumping could face fines of up to $20,000.

The problem is that generally people have to be caught in the act, which is rare.

“We’ve got our crew out there,” Hunt said. “I believe the sheriff’s office has some of its (community service workers) out there cleaning up. I know the (solid waste authority) tries to keep an eye on it.  But we aren’t going to really make a dent in it until people stop doing this. In the meantime, it’s costing money that could be used elsewhere, and just looks bad.”

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