Cleburne County considering program to fight illegal dumping
by Laura Camper
Sep 14, 2013 | 3450 views |  0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleburne County earned a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to clean up illegal dumps in the county.

But county administrators are trying to do something more innovative with the money to turn that three-year grant into a long-term solution to the problem, said County Administrator Steve Swafford.

Swafford said the county would like to use the grant to create an environmental services program. The program would serve not only the unincorporated county but also the municipalities within the county, he said.

The program would be entirely funded by the grant and wouldn’t cost the county anything except up-front money for the equipment and an employee to run the program, Swafford said.

The grant can’t be used to purchase equipment, but it will pay usage fees for equipment, Swafford said. The county could purchase equipment to clean up the illegal dumps and charge a monthly usage fee, he said. Then at the end of the three years, the county would own the equipment and could continue to use it, Swafford said.

It might also offer the county a way to help local nonprofit agencies earn some money, he said. For instance, the county could hire a nonprofit group to do a cleanup rather than going to a contractor, Swafford said.

“We’re not taking advantage of ADEM,” Swafford said. “We’re doing what the grant was meant to do; we’re just doing it in a creative, progressive way.”

Cleburne County Compliance Officer Josh Horn said he hopes an agreement will go through soon.

Despite the prisoner work crews that clean along the county right-of-ways, Horn said he receives a couple of calls a week about illegal dumps and tires on county roads. The county cleaned five tire dumps in the last month or so, he said. The dumps ranged from just a few tires to one with 50 tires, Horn said.

ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes said that ADEM is still working on coming to an agreement with the Cleburne County Commission. He provided a generic agreement that outlines what they typically look like, he said.

The Scrap Tire Program, which began in 2004, is funded by fees collected when residents buy new tires, Hughes said. It generally reimburses a county for the cleanup of illegal dumps that include tires on county right-of-ways, Hughes said. The reimbursements can include equipment and personnel costs, Hughes said.

“This initiative has been very successful in other counties and we look forward to working with Cleburne County Commission,” Hughes said.

Since the program began, more than 100 illegal scrap tire dumps have been cleaned up and more than 7 million tires have been removed, he said. Many of those tires have been recycled, Hughes added.

Illegal dumping, or criminal littering, is a Class C misdemeanor and can be punished with a minimum $250 fine plus court costs, Horn said. But it’s hard to prosecute.

When he cleans the dumps he sometimes find debris with addresses on them, but the majority of the dumpers are from out of the county or from Georgia, he said.

He thinks part of the reason is because garbage pick-up is mandatory in Cleburne County.

“I’ve been told that mandatory trash has really cut down on illegal dumping,” Horn said.

If he does find a Cleburne County resident’s address in the refuse, it’s often an old address, Horn said.

But, Horn said he has tracked down a few local illegal dumpers and he always offers them a deal, Horn said.

“I’m going to give them a chance to clean it up before I move further,” Horn said.

So far, two people have taken him up on the offer, he said.

But Horn believes that much of the dumping is because people don’t know how to dispose of something. For instance tires must be disposed of by an approved company and that costs money. When you have someone change the tires for you, that company takes care of the disposal. People who change their own tires may just dump the old ones “usually on dirt back roads,” Horn said.

Swafford is waiting to hear from ADEM that the organization is willing to spend the money the way he’s outlined, he said. He wants to get some sort of written approval before the county spends any money on equipment for the program, Swafford said.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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