Volunteers cleaned up 1,200 pounds of illegally dumped trash Wednesday on the side of Tumbling Creek Circle.
Although it is getting better, illegal dumping is a problem for local Code Enforcement officers, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Keep Hall Beautiful, a local nonprofit that coordinated the cleanup.
“It is a huge problem,” said Kelly Norman, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful, “but we are steadily and diligently working to keep this problem under control.”
The trash on Tumbling Creek Circle was reported on July 3, and included furniture, appliances, clothing, books and household garbage.
“We try to check all of the likely spots,” said Gary Kansky, Code Enforcement manager for the city of Gainesville. “People tend to dump in subdivisions that are being built and in secluded areas. But often we don’t find a dumpsite until someone reports it.”
Catching violators can be difficult. Occasionally Code Enforcement receives tips or can identify the dumper based on items found in the trash, but often there is no way to find the person responsible.
“People don’t realize that somebody has to pay for it,” Kansky said. “If we can’t find someone who dumped the trash, then the city pays for it.”
Trash dumping is a misdemeanor offense under Georgia’s litter laws and can be punished with a fine up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. In addition, people convicted of littering can be ordered to clean up to a mile of roadway where they littered.
However, if someone is convicted twice of dumping more than 500 pounds of trash or if they are convicted of dumping hazardous or biomedical waste, it is a felony with a fine of up to $25,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment.
Aside from being an eyesore, illegal trash dumps take a toll on local environments. With the recent downpours, trash can be washed into waterways where it disrupts wildlife habitats and can introduce hazardous chemicals to the local food chain and water supply, according to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
The effects are worse when trash is incinerated.
“Burning trash can be very harmful to respiratory systems, especially to the young and elderly,” said Tom Manget, an environmental specialist with EPD. “Solid wastes can release dioxins that are harmful to humans and to the environment.
“For example, tires are fairly inert by themselves but when you burn them, you basically have a hazardous waste site,” he said.
Keep Hall Beautiful continues to address the issue with community service cleanups, collaborative efforts and public education programs.
“At the end of the day, any illegal dumpsite has a negative effect on the community,” said Scott Broome, program director for the organization.
In fiscal year 2013, Keep Hall Beautiful removed more than 90,000 pounds of trash from shorelines and roadways.
“I would say the problem is getting better. We are staying on top of it a lot more between us, the city, and the county.
“If people see other people doing it and they report it, it would help. If word gets out that they are prosecuting people for doing this, maybe the problem would go away,” Broome said.