The Pryor Times

Agriculture

May 27, 2014

Dumping is environmental crime

PRYOR, OK — Spring cleaning and county-wide clean-up days are in season, meaning more illegal dumps will pop up across the county.

Illegal dump sites were the topic of conversation at an environmental law enforcement training hosted recently at the Mayes County Courthouse.

Oklahoma Cooper-ative Extension Services, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Agriculture joined forces to host the trainings.

ODEQ's criminal investigator Michael Freeman discussed the harm and penalties associated with illegal dumping.

“Environmental crime may be as minor as littering, or as serious as the illegal disposal of hazardous waste,” said Freeman, who said people generally dump illegally in effort to avoid paying landfill fees or hazardous waste disposal fees.

He said these dumpers leave garbage roadside to avoid the time and effort involved in proper handling.

“Waste haulers may illegally dispose of waste  but charge customers full price. But when it comes to environmental law, the person that generated the waste is responsible for the waste, that's why it's crucial to confirm you have hired a credible waste management service. You never lose ownership of your waste,” said Freeman.

ODEQ, Freeman said, has jurisdiction over hazardous and solid waste activities, air quality, radioactive materials and public water treatment facilities while the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over pesticides, storage of fertilizer and agriculture chemicals and animal waste from feedlots.

“But environmental crime is more than illegal dumping. Environmental crime can include illegal disposal, illegal storage, illegal transportation and more. However, illegal disposal is probably the most prevalent,” said Freeman, who added that illegal disposal is the most visible and the most damaging.

Illegal disposal is also what law enforcement is most likely to come across.

Solid waste typically includes construction waste like shingles and lumber, appliances, furniture and household trash.

“Illegal dumps are most likely to start where there is ineffective law enforcement, where there is limited access to convenient and affordable waste disposal services, where there are no community recycling programs and in low income areas,” said Freeman. “They are also more likely in areas with a lot of drug or gang related activity or in areas with a high population of renters.”

Freeman said trash is typically dumped on poorly lighted county roads, and once there is one item of trash it quickly snowballs into a dump site.

“Criminal enforcement is effective because the threat of incarceration is more of an incentive to comply than is the threat of fines,” said Freeman.

“Why do we care about illegal dumping? Because it is a matter of public health and safety. Illegal dumps mean exposure to chemical or medical waste, protruding nails and sharp edges. In addition dump sites attract rodents, mosquitos and insects,” said Freeman, adding that with mosquitos come mosqiuito-born illnesses.

Freeman said these dumps damage wildlife habitats, poison or contaminate water supplies and cause fires.

Any person who violates any of the provisions of the ODEQ codes shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction may be punished by a fine of not less than $200 for each violation, not to exceed $10,000. Conviction of this misdemeanor can also result in imprisonment in the count jail for not more than six months.

According to the Oklahoma Environ-

mental Crime Statutes, anyone who deliberately places/throws/drops/dumps garbage or waste on any public or private property without consent shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor offense. Conviction of a misdemeanor littering charge, carries a fine of not less than $200 or imprisonment up to 30 days. Any person who throws litter from a vehicle shall be subject of a fine up to $1,000 or can be ordered to complete up to 20 hours of community service.

Any person convicted of violating the Oklahoma Clean Air Act is subject to a fine up to $25,000.

 

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