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County officials address dumping at rural cemetery

Think of a country cemetery and it probably conjures up images of serene settings and bucolic, green niceness.

Proctorville area resident Sherry Dement said there's nothing nice about a recent discovery she made when she went to tend her family's graves at the Forgey Cemetery on Old State Route 775 -- some one had dumped construction debris there.

"There's vinyl siding, bricks, dry wall, and carpet," Dement said. "This is the worst I've ever seen it look."

The illegal dumping has attracted the attention of Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste District Director Doug Cade, who said he and officials with the Lawrence County Health Department have inspected the site.

Cade said he intends to bring in the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the matter.

While cleaning up the debris will be the responsibility of whoever owns the cemetery, the person who dumped the debris can be prosecuted.

"Open dumping is a felony," Cade said. "The OEPA will process it like a crime scene."

An open dumping conviction carries a fine of 2-4 years in prison and a $10,000-$25,000 fine.

Meanwhile, the Lawrence County Commission has agreed to an emergency measure allowing Dement to temporarily install a locked gate across the end of Old State Route 775

(County Road 408) to keep people from entering the cemetery unsupervised.

The permanent vacation of the road will require a public hearing and the matter will have to be advertised in the media in the event someone wants to challenge the idea.

Commissioner George Patterson said he realizes temporarily closing the road without the required public hearing could constitute a legal issue, but the nature of the problem warrants the emergency action.

"If someone wants to take us on legally for trying to do the right thing, that's what we'll have to do," Patterson said. "I'd like to find out who's doing this." Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune