The city of Charleston, West Virginia has long served as the Mountain State’s capital. But in recent years it has also become the capital for one of the most damaging and nefarious crimes of waste disposal: Illegal dumping. Residents, small businesses, and general contractors who don’t want to pay to dispose of large and bulky debris simply dump their waste near parks and streams. In West Virginia, this practice has led to the creation of 15,000 confirmed illegal dumping sites.

An illegal dumping site off the Jersey Turnpike circa 1970.

An illegal dumping site off the Jersey Turnpike circa 1970.

So who ends up picking up all of this trash? The taxpayer. Local governments are in charge of clearing up illegal dumping sites with additional funding provided by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Every year the state manages the cleanup of some 1,100 illegal dumping sites across West Virginia. Their work is crucial to prevent damage to local streams and rivers where a lot of illegally dumped waste ends up.

Tires, televisions, and other bulky items end up in isolated areas near woods and rivers in an effort by their former owners to cover up their tracks. But even waste items placed far from running water are commonly swept up by rainfall and carried to major sources of water. Once these items accumulate in the waterways they start to cause drainage issues for city’s such as Charleston.

Despite the ongoing problems associated with illegal dumping, state officials are seeing a decrease in the amount of waste that ends up at these sites. Officials estimate that about 1-2 tons of debris are found in the average illegal dump site, compared to ten years ago when the largest dump sites contained over 30 tons of debris. The Department of Environmental Protection has also increased public awareness of municipal garbage collection services in order to reach out to those who are simply ignorant of proper waste disposal services.

Stiffer fines are also being imposed on would-be dumpers who are caught in the act. Currently, fines for a single offense can range between $100-$1000 depending on the amount of waste dumped. Repeat offenses in excess of 500 pounds of debris can be punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and up to a year in jail.

Source: Charleston Daily Mail