Published 10:35 pm Saturday, January 31, 2009

By Teresa Moore

The Tribune

She knew it was coming but the inevitability didn’t make it any easier to swallow. The rains came and so did the trash, washing downstream onto her property from a neighbor’s house upstream.

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“They put their garbage out on the creek bank and wait for the rain to come and wash it away,” the Lawrence County woman said. It has happened, she said, time and time again.

But recently, the years-long victim became a victor when she telephoned the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District and filed a formal, anonymous complaint.

Enforcement Officer Steve Hileman investigated the incident, found the culprits and made them clean up every last piece of it.

“I’m so pleased I got a response,” the woman, who asked not to be identified, said. “I called trustees, I called the county commission. But this is the first year I got a response.”

She hopes whoever did this learned a lesson about the right way to get rid of garbage.

Cracking down

It has always been against the law to litter and create an illegal dump and since its inception the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District has investigated complaints, educated the public and, when necessary, written tickets to offenders.

But late last year, solid waste officials realized that while some offenders were getting the message, others weren’t.

SWMD Director Dan Palmer said for those in the last category, something had to be done.

“When Steve came on board in late August, he was seeing some of the same things as Bob (Stern, former enforcement officer) and we just thought ‘that’s it. We’re going to have to do better.’ So we started in September coming down harder on people who continue to open dump. We know we have to put a stop to it,” Palmer said.

Hileman agreed.

“It’s zero tolerance. If we catch someone littering on highways, it’s zero tolerance,” Hileman said. “It’s an automatic ticket and you’re summoned into court. And there is zero tolerance for people taking trash bags and throwing their trash over the side of the road. It is a criminal act. It will be prosecuted.”

Complaints can be reported anonymously.

Scene of the crime

Since Hileman started in August 2008, he has opened 44 cases and closed 42 of those.

— On County Road 32, near Chesapeake Community Center, the violator was given 15 days to clean up the mess. It took 25 days but Hileman said the offender did clean up her mess.

— On Crabtree Hollow near The Cold Spot, off U.S. 52 in Perry Township, Hileman waded through an illegal dumpsite and found several personal bills with the names of a couple in Kentucky. Hileman went to the couple’s home with Kentucky authorities and learned that the bills actually were in the couple’s name but belonged to their daughter, who lived in Ironton.

“The parents were so mad she had pulled this,” Palmer said. “The father seemed like a pretty nice guy but he was highly embarrassed and humiliated about what his daughter had done. I explained they were fortunate they were being given a chance to clean it up instead of going to court and paying a fine.”

Palmer mused that at first, the daughter who made the mess denied she had dumped the household waste.

“She looked and said, ‘look at these beer bottles, we don’t drink cheap beer,’” Palmer chuckled as he recalled the incident.

— Two contractors from South Point were caught taking demolition debris to an area off State Route 93. They were spotted by a Pedro resident who reported the activity.

“It cost them more than $3,800 to dispose of it — the right way,” Palmer said.

Demolition debris must be taken to a construction debris landfill.

“We gave them one month because it was so big,” Hileman said. “They had to go in and hire a bunch of people to help.”

— On Oak Ridge Road, the culprit who created an open dump alongside a creek was given 10 days to clean it up. The culprit had to present Hileman and Palmer with the receipts showing the waste had been disposed of properly.

— Two men arrested for illegal dumping and / or open burning pleaded guilty recently in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Richard Cole, 37, of 647 County Road 14, Pedro, and Bryan K. Anderson, 27, of Ashland, Ky., were each sentenced to six months in jail but that sentence was suspended and each man was placed on two years community controlled sanctions under intensive supervised probation (CCS/ISP) and each ordered to pay a $500 fine.

“I really want to thank (Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor) Brigham Anderson,” Palmer said. “He does an excellent job with the cases we bring before him. I thank him immensely for his support. The judges work well with us, too.”

Palmer said he is getting great cooperation from the county commission and from some township trustees who are concerned about their community and are taking a firm stance on illegal dumping.

Palmer said the vast majority of Lawrence Countians are law abiding and tidy and want their county to be clean. Many of the once-silent majority are speaking up and turning in their neighbors who refuse to clean up their act.

“We want to thank those who have called in with complaints and driver’s licenses,” Palmer said.

Educational opportunity

Palmer said solid waste officials are not just writing tickets and forcing people to clean up their messes.

They are also trying to educate people about recycling and proper disposal of waste. Solid waste officials are also helping area townships and municipalities obtain grants for cleanup projects.

The solid waste office sponsors more than 60 recycling containers in the two-county area, enabling recyclers to dispose of plastic, paper and other materials that can be re used.

“I am stunned with the growth of recycling,” Palmer said. “And we have been applauded by the OEPA for what we have done.”