Buchanan County cracks down on illegal dumping

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | 7:08 p.m. CDT; updated 8:55 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 17, 2010

ST. JOSEPH — Buchanan County commissioners are fed up with people dumping their junk into ditches and forcing the county to spend thousands to clean up the debris.

The western Missouri county spent $18,000 last year cleaning up illegal dump sites — money that could have been used to fix roads and bridges.

Most of the dumping is happening in the western part of the county, where workers take care of 10 to 15 illegal dumps a week, the St. Joseph News-Press reported in a story published Wednesday.

Ron Hook, the commissioner for the Western District, said he is making it a priority to go after illegal dumpers who are too cheap to pay for taking discarded items to the landfill.

"More than likely, they don't want to pay the landfill fees more than (it's) laziness, because it takes quite a bit of work to pack all this stuff up and then heave it over the embankment," Hook said. "Or maybe it's the thrill of seeing how much they can get away with."

The county has purchased a digital camera system that will be rotated among 13 sites where illegal dumping has become a regular problem.

Hook hopes to catch people in the act — the camera includes a voice recording letting dumpers know they have been spotted — and pay for cleaning up the sites through fines.

Violators can be fined up to $1,000 for illegal dumping, but the county prosecutor filed only two such charges last year. One of them was dismissed.

"We really haven't gotten that involved in it until this year," Hook said.

Things aren't so bad in the county's Eastern District, where commissioner Dan Hausman said it cost $500 to $1,000 to clean up illegal dumps there last year.

The biggest problem for his staff, he said, has been tires, but that's dropped off since the county started offering free tire dumps.

Hook said if the first camera is successful, he'll buy more. In the meantime, he's asking county residents to report illegal dumpers to the commission.

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