Cleaning up the county

NEW MANCHESTER – Rifling through the contents of an illegal dump on Mayhew Road recently, George Hines came across a bright green pencil with the slogan “What Would Jesus Do?” printed on it.

Indeed, Hines wondered, would Jesus dump trash along a scenic rural road?

Hines, a member of the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) board, and Rob Mark, site manager of the SWA’s Recycling and Convenience Center, gathered at the Mayhew Road dump site on Friday to strategize about its cleanup.

“It’s been a dumping spot for years,” Hines said, “but some of this stuff is new.”

In addition to the pencil and other school supplies, there were bags of trash, 12 to 15 tires, toys, a mattress, toilet paper, aerosol cans, beer cans, casino gambling chips, and three bench seats that looked like they came from a conversion van or recreational vehicle.

“The tires are all the way up the hollow,” Hines said.

The Mayhew Road dump site extends from the road, down over an embankment and along a creek that empties into Hardins Run.

“It’s pretty blatant,” Mark said, noting that West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials have been informed about the dump.

Mark said local and state authorities working together have been able to more effectively identify and clean up illegal dump sites in Hancock County in recent years.

“You can bring a lot of people together to work on it. There’s strength in numbers,” Mark said during a recent tour of such sites in northern and central Hancock County.

While state environmental officials can help with actual cleanup, state wildlife officers can enforce the litter and dumping laws. Mark said he plans to contact Randal Scott Lemons, project manager for the DEP’s Pollution Prevention and Open Dump program for the Northern Panhandle, and Thomas Spence, DNR Wildlife Officer for Hancock County.

“The nice thing about the wildlife officer is, because he’s local, he can be right on the spot, even if the dumping is in progress,” Mark said.

West Virginia law requires homeowners to either have regular trash pickup or proof of dumping in a landfill, Mark said. What’s more, state law allows for up to $50,000 in fines and three years in prison as a criminal penalty for illegal dumping, and up to $5,000 in fines (per incident) as a civil penalty.

While local solid waste authorities are not charged with enforcement, they are required to come up with ways for people to legally dispose of their trash, said Mark Vignovic, director of the Hancock County SWA.

The Hancock County recycling center, 832 Gas Valley Road, accepts some trash items, including tires, TVs, car batteries, and unused and old paint. Tires and TVs can only be dropped off for a fee.

“We don’t take household garbage,” Vignovic said. “We take the stuff that can be recycled or stuff that a trash collector won’t normally pick up.”

The recycling center’s hours will change, starting March 31, to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Patrons must be Hancock County residents who show a garbage collection bill or receipt.

Vignovic said he remembers a time when Hancock County had many more illegal dump sites than it has now. “In the early 1990s, we were able to clean up the 12 worst open dumps in Hancock County. A lot of those areas have stayed clean, but some have come back,” he said.

A dump on an unnamed road off Washington School Road was cleaned last fall and has stayed clean, Mark said. “There had to be a couple tons of crap here (including TVs),” he said.

An old tire dump site on Gear Road also is looking better, Mark said. At all three sites, Mark posted “no dumping” signs on Friday.

People wishing to report illegal dumping can call the DEP’s anonymous tip line at 800-322-5530 or submit the information using an online form. Go to the website, click on REAP, then click on the Pollution Prevention and Open Dump program. Look for the link to the form at the bottom of the page.