Bartholomew County road crews are seeing an increase in trash dumped along county roads and an increase in how brazen the litterers have become.
Last summer, road crews were called to remove a load of shingles dumped in the middle of Popeye’s Lane, said Jeff Whittington, the county’s assistant highway superintendent.
Popeye’s Lane is a stretch of road between county roads 600N and 700N that includes county roads 500E, 625N and 525E.
When county workers arrived, they found that someone had gone to some trouble to dump the load of shingles. The culprit wrapped a pickup truck’s worth of discarded shingles in a tarp, tied it with a chain and then tied the chain to a post. When the driver proceeded ahead, the whole load was pulled from the truck bed by the chain — blocking the road.
Bartholomew County Landfill
Where: 811 E. County Road 450S.
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Cost: First 200 pounds per day free for residents; $27.50 per ton.
Tires: Quartered tires, $47.50 per ton. Whole tires range from $1.50 per tire to $25 per tire, depending on size.
Other costs: Refrigerators and other appliance with chlorofluorocarbons, $20 each; computers, two a day for free or three or more for $6 each.
County workers had to use a small loader to clear the roadway.
Whittington said the county crews are seeing all kinds of debris dumped by the roadside, such as couches, mattresses and bagged household trash, and waste such as tires or shingles dumped by businesses.
“There are a lot of people who move and who find they don’t need items,” Whittington said. “They don’t want to have to take them to the landfill because they don’t want to pay the fee, and they just throw it out on the side of the road.”
Jim Murray, director of Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District, said the illegal dumping is troubling because there is little need for it. The county has not increased prices at the landfill since it opened in 1999. And the county offers residents free dumping of up to 200 pounds a day of trash.
“There is no excuse. I say that because we are one of the very few communities in Indiana that offer no-charge disposal,” Murray said.
In the cases of the dumped shingles, Murray said the dumpers avoided a bill that would likely have been less than $50. The landfill charges $27.50 per ton and a house-worth of shingles generally is about a ton and a half, he said.
Murray said that roadside trash problem becomes especially noticeable in the winter. A load of snow will flatten grass and vegetation, making the dumped materials especially obvious.
Whittington said crews are seeing more loads of cut tires. Whittington said they have found up to 30 tires dumped at once, but there is no way to tell where the tires came from.
“I would hate to think that there are responsible businesses in our county that are doing that to our county,” Commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.
When county workers can identify where the trash came from, they will alert deputies, who then can pursue the litterbugs. However, road crews are also wary of digging too deeply into the trash looking for evidence, out of concerns for needles or other hazardous waste.
Maj. Todd Noblitt, spokesman for the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, said deputies try to make contact with the offenders if the source of the trash can be identified.
“We make contact with them and advise them that they need to pick up and remove that trash and, if not, they face possible citation,” Noblitt said.
Noblitt could not remember a time in the past 10 to 15 years when an offender did not take the trash, rather than face the citation. However, the dumping can turn into a more serious crime, given the circumstances.
For example, littering typically is an infraction with a fine of up to $1,000, Noblitt said. However, various factors such as distance from a waterway can turn that into a $10,000 fine, he said.
In the cases of shingles dumped last summer, Noblitt said the offender could face misdemeanor charges starting at obstruction of traffic, up to felony criminal recklessness if a driver had been injured by hitting the dumped load.
However, it is usually difficult to tie a particular person to the trash, Noblitt said. Even if trash bags were to contain mail with a street address, the offender could argue that the trash had blown out of a truck or been left through some other accident, he said.
“The way the statute reads, we have to be able to prove they knowingly, intentionally or recklessly do that,” Noblitt said.
“That is not always easy,” he said. “After the fact, it is going to be tough to do that.”