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Sheriff says illegal dumping is a growing problem
Fremont County Commission chairman Doug Thompson said Atlantic City residents have reported that bears, including the one above, are getting into the trash they have stored. Photo by Jen McCarty

Sheriff: 'Intensive illegal dumping' a growing problem

Aug 26, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The reports are numerous: trash left just outside fenced disposal areas or dumped in out-of-the-way places, burn-barrel contents scattered, garbage blowing across open prairies.

In the words of Sheriff Skip Hornecker, the problem of "intensive illegal dumping" is prevalent throughout the county, especially north of Riverton. Hornecker spoke to the commissioners Aug. 14.

Illegal dumping has skyrocketed in the county in the roughly two months since most of the county's trash transfer stations went to a vastly decreased operational schedule.

"I am notifying you through this correspondence that the illegal dumpsites are becoming ever increasing and extreme," Hornecker said in an Aug. 9 letter to the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District board. "Consequent to the restricted usage hours at several transfer stations, the members of the general public have reacted by dumping in gullies, in hidden open prairie areas, and often near the closed gates leading to transfer stations."

The illegal dumping carries a host of issues, which include environmental concerns, investigation requirements and questions about cleanup costs.

Most important, as discussed among commissioners and the sheriff, is finding a remedy to the overflowing problem.

"Being aware of it and addressing the problem are two different things," commission chairman Doug Thompson said. "The strategy to handle solid waste is not working, and it's getting worse."

The problem is the "result of failed strategies to address solid waste," Thompson said.

"The solid waste board is just going to have to re-look at what they're going to do," he said.

Illegal dumping is one of the concerns that became a reality after the solid waste board instituted the decreased hours in Atlantic City, Jeffrey City, Hudson, Missouri Valley, Pavillion, Lysite and Shoshoni.

Numerous citizens complained about the limited disposal access, especially in Atlantic City, where they said the summertime influx of tourists results in more trash.

Residents also report that bears are getting into the trash that people have stored, Thompson said.

And the concerns about trash in the county seem to be growing.

"The environmental impact of (illegal dumping) should be a concern," Hornecker told commissioners. "Our concern as elected officials, this will eventually lead to civil litigation."

Lawsuits could result "because we've got trash blowing across the prairie," the sheriff said.

Hornecker said his deputies can pick up trash at the illegal sites, but the solid waste district imposes a fee to dispose of the trash at the landfills.

"I think that's totally unacceptable to charge a deputy a fee to try to fix a problem," Thompson said.

"To me, that doesn't make sense," Hornecker replied.

The sheriff said various organizations and volunteers want to clean up the sites, but they face the same financial consequence.

"Once they do (collect trash) they get charged a fee for taking it to the landfill," he said.

The law-abiding public is taking note, said Hornecker, who told commissioners about a citizen complaining to his agency that "we're not cleaning up the stuff."

"I think their frustration was it appears no one is taking care of the situation," he said.

Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese said she worries the public will start to rely on the sheriff's office to clean up illegal waste when it has other things it needs to do.

"We cannot police dump sites," Hornecker said.

Additionally, the illegal garbage is free of identifying information for pursuing prosecution.

"There's nothing in these dump sites that have names on it. There's no envelopes," Hornecker said.

"This cannot be an enforcement issue," he added. "This is a reaction to the restraints put on the general public."

Thompson said he worries the illegal dumping will spread.

"As soon as someone sees an illegal dump site, they'll use that before they pay," he said.

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