EFFECTS OF ILLEGAL DUMPING AT BRIDGE SITES INSIDE VERSUS OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS

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1 EFFECTS OF ILLEGAL DUMPING AT BRIDGE SITES INSIDE VERSUS OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS Steven S. Brown, Department of Earth Science, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL As you travel throughout the Dog River Watershed it is very apparent that illegal dumping is a major problem. There many different types of places that illegal dumping occurs, but the main one is at bridge sites. This is because bridge sites are easily manageable to anyone. This project is split up into two main focuses. First, is a follow up study from Whitney Mazyck s a former student report two years ago on comparing dumping at bridge sites in areas of the watershed that lie within the city limits and those that lie outside city limits. The follow up I did on the report showed that illegal dumping at bride sites still occurs now like it did back then and the same type trash is being dumped at each of the locations. The report also shows that illegal dumping is still much more common in rural areas now as opposed to urban areas and reason why this is the case. The focal point of the second part of my report is research into ways to prevent illegal dumping. I looked into methods on how others city throughout the United States worked to fight against illegal dumping. Many of their tactics were very successful such as putting cameras at hotspots, raising the penalty for offenders, and marketing against illegal dumping. Keyword: illegal dumping, bridge sites, prevention Introduction: According to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Illegal dumping is the disposal of waste in an unpermitted area, such as a back area of a yard, along stream bank, or at some other off-road area (epa.gov 2009). The U.S. is the world leader in solid waste, producing 236 million tons of garbage in This is an increase of 148 million tons since According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average human has doubled his production of garbage since 1960, producing 4.5 pounds per day (Kimberly 2005). With these staggering numbers it is no surprise that illegal dumping is a serious problem. While this is a problem across the U.S as whole, its effects are extremely prevalent here in the Dog River Watershed. 1

2 While driving throughout the watershed it is apparent that there is illegal dumping occurring all across the Mobile area. However, according to visual evidence this dumping is far more severe of a problem at bridge sites. My research consisted of two main focuses. The first area was concentrated on a follow up study from Whitney Mazyck s report from 2008.Her focus was comparing dumping at bridge sites in areas of the watershed that lie within the city limits and those that lie outside city limits. I wanted to see if illegal dumping continues to be worse in rural areas outside city limits compared to urban areas inside the city limits now in 2010 as it did in Also, in the follow up study I wanted to see if the same types of garbage are being dumped now at bridge sites as there were in 2008 or if this has began to change. The focal point of the second part of my report was to research into ways to prevent illegal dumping. There are many different ways to help with the prevention of illegal dumping at bridge sites throughout the Dog River Watershed. I looked into methods on how other cities throughout the United States worked to fight against illegal dumping. Some of the tactics were simple and cheap. Other tactics took more extensive amounts of both time and money, but they all were successful with helping to prevent illegal dumping. One particular journal stated Last year Chicago surpassed New York, which picked up 151,686 tons of illegal trash (Sherer Moskowitz 1995). This was a huge number for over ten years ago and has definitely risen a significant amount since then. These cities vary in location from New York to Oakland. Along with finding these tactics, I also tried to come up with a few ideas that might help prevent people from dumping other items other than trash at bridge sites. Many other cities throughout the United States experience illegal dumping just like we do here in 2

3 the Dog River Watershed, but many are also fed up with it and taking action! In Victorian Texas the Advocates says Dumping in the county has been a problem for a long time. We are pleased to see that our local and state officials are getting serious about the problem (Victoria 2010). Research question: Is illegal dumping still worse throughout the Dog River Watershed outside of city limits in Mobile County compared to inside the city limits now like it was in 2008? What are ways to help prevent illegal dumping? Methods: Since I was doing a follow up study on the areas where illegal dumping could possibly still exist inside and outside the county limits, I had to first go and locate the documents showing the areas that she visited to write her report on. After locating the map, I discovered that ten different bridge sites were selected for research in her report. Of the ten sites chosen for research, five lie in the city limits with the other five outside of the city limits. Each location was randomly selected throughout the county. I went to each of the ten sites individually to closely review and compare each site that had been chosen in 2008 to the sites now. First, I went to the bridge sites outside the city limits. While at each site I took many pictures of the area to show if illegal dumping was still prominent there. Also, at each location I documented the different types of trash that was present including categories such as tires, electronic, and other. In addition to what types of trash I found I labeled each as to how bad the dumping appeared to be. The categories I put the amount of trash at each location were: none, light, 3

4 moderate, and severe. Sites categorized as none consisted of sites with no visual trash at all. Next, light amounts of trash consisted of some paper, bags or cans. Then, bridge sites with multiple amounts of the same types of trash were categorized as moderating. Lastly, sites with heavy amounts of garbage overflowing were categorized as severe. With this information I created a table, that I could compare the types of trash that are being dumped now to types that were being dumped in After visiting the locations that she did her report on, I chose an additional bridge site in the city limits and one outside the city limits. I did this to see if other locations coincided to the previous ones. On the following page there is a map that I created to better show the Dog River Watershed and to show each of the bridge sites that I visited for this follow up study (Fig.1). I chose the letter U and the number in which I visited in order each of the urban site inside the city limits. For example U1 was the first site I visited inside the city limits. For the sites outside city limits I used the letter R for rural areas. For the additional areas that I visited I chose the letter A to represent the sites inside and outside the city 4

5 Figure 1 Map of Bridge Sites in the Dog River Watershed 5

6 Results: The results from the bridge sites inside the city limits were quiet surprising (Table 1). The first location I went to was U 1, not only did it not show signs of illegal dumping, but there was not any trash at all. This was the only location I visited throughout the area, in either the city limits or outside the city limits, that no trash at all was present. The next three locations I visited U 2, U 3, and U 4 all showed no signs of illegal dumping and were only categorized as light trash. The trash varied from plastic bags, paper, and a few cans. All of the trash seemed to have been thrown from a vehicle or blown from nearby parking lots. Table 1 Results from Bridge Sites: Sites Trash/ Amount Electronics Tires Other Illegal Dumping U 1 N N N N None U 2 Y, Light N N N None U 3 Y, Light N N N None U 4 Y, Light N N N None U 5 Y, Moderate N N Glass None R 1 Y, Severe Y Y Carpet, Oil Bottles Yes Severe R 2 Y, Moderate Y Y N Yes R 3 Y, Moderate N N Bicycle Yes R 4 Y, Moderate N N N Yes R 5 Y, Severe Y Y Glass Yes Severe A 1 Y, Light N N N None A 2 Y, Moderate N N Glass Yes 6

7 The last location I visited for the follow up study inside the city limits was U 5. This site showed signs of more trash than any of the other urban sites that I had previously visited. The different types included plastic bags, broken beer bottles, cans and fast food garbage. Even though there was more trash present at this site I would still not classify it as dumping. Overall the amount of trash at each of the locations in the city limits either has not gotten worse or had even gotten better compared to The results from outside the city limits were even worse than expected. The first place I visited was R 1 (See Fig.1). This is where Todd Acres road meets Rabbit Creek. I knew from the previous study that this was a bad dumping area, but the amount of dumping there is worse than imagined. The types of garbage there ranges from tires, oil bottles, carpet, full trash bags, electronics, house hold products and many more. On the following page Figures 2 and 3 show how this site hasn t changed at all from 2008 to now. From this site, I went just a few miles away to R 2. Because this location is located so close to R1 I thought that it too would have severe dumping. However, the amount of trash at this location turned out to be less than expected. There was still some trash that consisted of a few electronics, and two tires. Although trash amounts were less than first expected, illegal dumping is still apparently a problem at this location. 7

8 Figure 2-Todd Acres Rabbit Creek 2008 Figure 3- Todd Acres Rabbit Creek

9 The next two bridge sites I visited, R 3 and R 4, seemed to be in roughly the same condition as previously in At these locations there were moderate amounts of trash and glass. At R 3 there actually was even a bicycle dumped under the bridge. Lastly, I visited R 5 which is located where Halls Mill Creek crosses Demetropolis Rd. This last bridge site was in similar condition to R 1. It was immediately obvious severe dumping has also been occurring here. This site hasn t apparently changed since 2008, because it was also categorized as severe dumping at that time. The different types of trash here were large amounts of household supplies, cans, broken glass, tires, electronics, and many more. What makes it even worse about this site is that it is cleaned up every September as a satellite site for the Coastal Cleanup. Dog River Clearwater Revival has been cleaning this site for the past seven years and within a couple of months after having it cleaned it severely trashed again. One of the reasons that this location and R1 are so much worse than any site inside or outside city limits, could be because people see how much garbage is already at these locations. Then people start thinking that since the area is already so bad it couldn t hurt anything for them to also dump their trash there also. I wanted to visit an additional site both inside and outside the city limits to see if they compared to the previous locations that she chose for the report in The first location I picked was A 1 it is located inside the city limits where Halls Mill Rd crosses Moore Creek (See Fig. 1). This bridge site was like the previous ones that I followed up on in that there was a light amount of trash and no illegal dumping. The second additional location I visited was A 2 being outside the city limits. Here there were a mild amount of trash and some glass. This site seemed to be like R 3 and R 4 with light to moderate dumping. 9

10 The second focal point of my research was to find ways to help prevent illegal dumping. This point was developed once I realized dumping seems to not have gotten any better in the last two years. I started researching tactics other cities have done to help fight against illegal dumping. As previously stated, other cities have had very positive results in cleaning up illegal dumping. In 1992, Oakland, a city with an awful dumping problem, started a campaign called "We Mean Clean." This program not only enacted monetary fines, but made offenders clean up dumped trash as community service sentences. Oakland fenced in 56 "hot spots" and put up cameras. Within a few weekends, the city made 28 arrests. "We went after the guys, and the judges were adamant about the seriousness of the crime," says Gary Doyle, a public works officer who says illegal dumping is now under control (Scherer, Moskowitz 1995). According to the Victorian Advocate, cities in Texas worked against it by spending $750,000 in marketing against illegal dumping (Victorian 2010). The city of Indianapolis Department of Public Works Customer Service Section employs two environmental officers who conduct investigations into illegal dumpsites (indygov.org 2009). The site also says the officers issue fines for successful investigations in which someone can be proven guilty of illegal dumping. All of these cities have put time and money into their actions against illegal dumping, and they have produced astounding results. 10

11 Discussion/Conclusion: The central idea behind this report was to see if there is still a growing problem outside of city limits in Mobile with illegal dumping at bridge sites. It is apparent that over the past two years not much has been done about this problem. This dumping is and will continue to have a detrimental effect on the environment, water quality in the area, and most importantly the public s health if something is not done to help solve this issue. Some of the reasons people continue to dump are because there is no sanitation services outside of city limits in Mobile County. This is because taxes do not pay for the service, and so people cannot afford to dispose of their trash properly. Because of this, people find whatever ways they can to throw away their trash even if that means illegally dumping it. If Mobile County could come up with some type of plan for sanitation services I believe it would greatly help with illegal dumping throughout the Dog River Watershed. Even if this proposal was to raise taxes a few cents, the residents I spoke to said they would gladly pay the extra in taxes for the service. Also, tires were a big issue at several of the bridge sites. According to King County Public Health, tires are one of the worst possible things that can be dumped in the environment (kingcounty.gov). The main reason people dump tires is because they do not know where you can take them to properly dispose of them. Many tire companies will take your used tires if you bring them to the tire dealer s location. I have also found two places that will recycle tires; Mobile Tire Recyclers ( ) and Gulf Waste Services ( ). 11

12 Hopefully in near future decision maker s will realize just how big of a problem illegal dumping is at bridge sites and will take action against it. I believe one way to make this a better report would be to research more in detail the ways other cities paid for the cost of the tactic they used to help prevent illegal dumping. References Cited Department of Public Works City of Indianapolis Illegal Dumping: (accessed on March 9, 2010) Environmental Protection Agency Illegal Dumping Control (accessed on February 25, 2010) Global Development Research Center An Introduction to Urban Watershed: (accessed on February 25, 2010) Public Health Seattle and King County Illegal Dumping: ( accessed on March 11, 2010 Rea, Kimberly Parks and Recreation. Trash Nation. 40 (9) : Scherer, Ron Moskowitz, Eric Illegal dumping: Not only in New York. 87 (176):10 Victoria Advocate Illegal dumping may disappear in county. 2/26 EDITORIAL. 12

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