Minnesota sees garbage along roadsides and ravines resurface
While most people wouldn't dream of dumping refuse along a road or in the woods in this day of environmental awareness, ditch and ravine dumping has always been a problem that ebbs and peaks. Minnesota Conservation officers say we seem to be back...
While most people wouldn't dream of dumping refuse along a road or in the woods in this day of environmental awareness, ditch and ravine dumping has always been a problem that ebbs and peaks. Minnesota Conservation officers say we seem to be back on a peak.
"We're seeing everything from wooden fish house-blocking materials on lakes to old appliances in roadway ditches," said Col. Jim Konrad, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Many illegal dumpers don't get caught. But some do, and the offense is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000.
Jeff Humphrey, conservation officer patrolling the Cromwell area of Carlton County, recently completed a litter investigation in which numerous bags of household trash were dumped along a rural road. The contents were revealing.
"In this case, they made significant effort to remove labels with names and addresses from their garbage. But I found a child's name on a piece of homework and a wrist band from a local hospital. A few phone calls, and I identified my suspect," Humphrey said, noting the people said they didn't want to pay to get rid of it.
No excuse for litter
Economics during a recession may be playing a role in more trash being illegally dumped, but it's not an excuse, officials say.
Not only are litter, refuse and appliances an eyesore, but they cost a lot of money to clean up. And some of the stuff can be toxic, such as automobile fluids, electronics and batteries.
Dr. Lynn Quenemoen of Duluth was walking along the Lester River recently when he came upon a dumping of trash and waste, including computers, TVs and furniture, along the Lester River. The stuff had been tossed into a steep ravine and crashed into pieces.
"How can people continue to be so thoughtless?" Quenemoen wrote with a note sent to the News Tribune, along with photographs of the illegal dumping.
Tom Kasper, a supervisor with the city's maintenance and operations department, said crews already have been assigned to that particular pile of trash.
"We're out picking up six mattresses at another location today," Kasper said Thursday, noting that several city employees spend the bulk of their work weeks picking up illegally dumped trash. "This is just a chronic problem, from one end of town to the other. Just last year we had over 100 couches ... hundreds of tires. You name it, people dump it and we have to pick it up."
In the Duluth area, the Household Hazardous Waste Center at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in Lincoln Park is the best place to drop off potentially toxic materials like oils, paint, batteries or solvents. The WLSSD's Materials Recovery Center in Rice Lake Township takes unwanted TVs, tires, lumber, computers, appliances, furniture, bikes, mowers, mattresses, doors and just about anything else -- some of it at no cost, other items for a small fee.
Some illegal dumping happens on private property. Conservation Officer Jeff Johanson of Osakis recently issued a citation to a man caught on a trail camera dumping waste on private property. The suspect was always very careful about removing items with any sort of identification on them. Finally, the property owner had had enough, put up a trail camera and captured a photo of the suspect and his vehicle in the act of dumping trash.
"With the electronic evidence, the interview went pretty smooth and the guy admitted to it right away. I made him clean the waste up and issued him a citation," Johanson said.
Conservation officers also have Solid Waste Civil Citation authority. These civil citations are "by the pound" or "by the cubic foot" penalties, and since they are not criminal charges, they don't require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The person suspected of littering must pay the penalty and clean up the mess.
Officers also warn ice anglers not to leave anything behind when they take their ice shanties off lakes by March 5 in the southern part of the state and March 19 in the north. Conservation officers use GPS coordinates and take down shanty names and license numbers and will recheck the lakes to see if anything is left behind.