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How to stop illegal trash dumps

Posted in: Helpful, Spotlight- Feb 25, 2015 No Comments

Information compiled by Karen Westin, Stream Team staff member at the Department of Natural Resources.

If you want to do something about a local illegal dump site, the law is on your side. Open dumping is illegal for a myriad of reasons, and there are things you can do to help prevent it.

You can report to local authorities to enforce whatever local ordinances that prohibit open dumping, or you can contact the appropriate DNR Regional Office (RO) and report a complaint.

The Department of Natural Resources is committed to investigating citizen reports of illegal dumping, and there are complaint investigators in every RO.

Where to start

If you would like to report illegal dumping, you can either call in, visit the RO, or file a report using the online complaint form. Photos would be particularly useful.

What happens next

Typically, if you make an illegal dumping complaint to the RO, staff will investigate by coming out to the site and asking questions, taking pictures, etc. If staff thinks it is warranted, there is the possibility of installation of a surveillance camera to try to obtain evidence.

Staff have to prioritize those surveillance locations, though – there’s a lot of illegal dumping in this state, so they have to focus resources in the worst hit areas. Once evidence has been collected, it is turned over to the local prosecutor to pursue the dumpers. If surveillance is started, the site can’t be cleaned up until the surveillance period is over (unless there is imminent threat to water quality) – so the area could potentially get (or stay) pretty messed up. The situation I originally researched was for people who actually owned the property where dumping was occurring, I don’t know what happens if the landowner isn’t on board.

How to get “No Dumping” signs put up at your location

The DNR can send a couple of “no dumping” signs that might help in particular situations. They state a max fine of $20,000 and potentially 1 year in jail, as well as the possibility of video surveillance (see the photo above). Other volunteers have reported that just putting up the signs has made a huge difference in stopping dumping. That notion was seconded by the Solid Waste staff I spoke with, and she also said that frequently word gets around that either the neighbors are keeping an eye out, or DNR has been called to investigate, and they stop dumping in that spot.

Keeping it clean

Keeping the area cleaned up is a good idea, too. If waste is allowed to pile up, then people are more likely to feel comfortable dumping stuff there and the spot becomes a de facto dump. You can get help with organizing cleanups from the Stream Team regional staff.