County goes after illegal dumping

Scott Sager, of Strasburg, unloads his household trash off the back of his pickup truck at Shenandoah County’s compactor and recycle center site on U.S. Route 55 in Strasburg on Tuesday. The county has been enforcing illegal dumping at its 15 public convenience sites for refuse and recycling. Rich Cooley/Daily

People who dump prohibited items in Shenandoah County’s trash compactors could expect to wind up in court.

The Sheriff’s Office has charged 10 people with unlawful dumping in the past couple of months, according to the agency’s published reports.

Major Scott Proctor said Tuesday that the agency acts on requests by the Department of Solid Waste Management, which provided video surveillance footage recorded by cameras at the compactor sites. The Sheriff’s Office had always investigated such incidents and charged individuals with committing such offenses.

The Solid Waste Department recently ramped up its effort to enforce the rules governing what residents can and cannot put in the compactors after District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz and other officials raised awareness of the problem.

Department of Solid Waste Management Director Patrick Felling thanked the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday for its assistance in tackling the problem and for helping to reduce illegal dumping.

“Over the last few months, we have turned over to the Sheriff clear video of more than two dozen incidents of dumping at our citizen convenience sites,” Felling said.

Unlawful dumping is a violation of the county code section pertaining to solid waste, specifically restrictions and requirement for using the county-owned, rural refuse collection system. County code limits the disposal of refuse at the collection sites to waste generated by normal household activities. Refuse generated by commercial, agricultural, demolition, construction and other non-household activities must be disposed of at the landfill in Edinburg.

Most illegal dumping occurs at compactor sites not manned by the county or after hours, Felling said.

“Those individuals may think no one is watching, not taking into account the surveillance cameras at our sites,” Felling said.

The department turns footage from surveillance cameras over to the Sheriff’s Office to aid in investigations.

Typical items illegally dumped include furniture such as mattresses, couches, carpeting, cabinets, along with large appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators, as well as televisions, computers and construction material, Felling said. Some violators also frequently treat the sites as thrift stores by leaving useful items on the ground.

“It is too early to tell if the new fee for televisions will result in more illegal dumping at the sites,” Felling said. “We have not seen any indications in the two weeks the fee has been in place.”

Most users of the compactors understand the rules and know to only dispose of allowable items such as household trash in bags, Felling added.

“We are hopeful that, over time, the few who would abuse the convenience sites realize it is not worth it,” Felling said.

The county prohibits the following items from disposal at its compactor sites even if generated by households:
• commercial waste
• petroleum products
• tires
• brush
• construction debris such as brick, block, lumber and drywall
• paint or paint cans
• furniture
• metal appliances
• scrap metal
• larger electrical appliances such as televisions
• carpets
• other large objects

Felling has said that large items such as furniture, when placed in a compactor, can damage the equipment and prevent it from working. Department workers then must take the time to remove the object from the compactor.

County code also prohibits anyone from disposing of refuse collected outside the jurisdiction in the landfill or compactor site without a contract, permit or written agreement.

County code indicates that violation of any provisions in the chapter shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com.