Danville begins crackdown on illegal dumping

DANVILLE – With nearly 13,000 tons of waste collected in the city each year, the trash can pile up quick.

Unfortunately, some trash has been piling up along isolated streets, in parks, down ravines and in some secluded spots courtesy of illegal dumping.

But the rubbish won't remain untouched for long – city officials are now working on new ways to combat illegal dumping.

"It's a problem when people illegally dump because it's hard to find out who's doing it," said Public Development Director John Heckler.

Officials have plans to collect evidence at illegal dump sites so they can track down the offenders. This may include video, deposited personal information and eyewitness accounts.

Be it one truckload or six, city workers have started to sort through the messes they find to collect any information that can be used to link the problem with the owner, said Tracy Stebbins, the city's neighborhood services coordinator.

Illegal dumping can be "a burden," because it can cost the city about $1,200 to clean up and uses up manpower and equipment, Stebbins said.

Parks Superintendent Steve Lane agrees.

"(Offenders) know it's wrong but they don't feel quite as bad because they know we'll come along behind them and pick it up," Lane said, adding that the additional work takes away from other maintenance tasks.

What city officials find varies between regular household waste to items stored in a barn, said Joe Gleisner, the city's public works service and operations manager.

The city's own solid waste collection accommodates most household waste, with special collections for appliances and yard waste.

"We're suspicious that (the offenders) live out of town," Gleisner said, noting that other solid waste management companies may operate differently than Danville's.

Lane said that people will often bring their household trash to the city's parks. People also dump items like mattresses, couches and tires and unload piles of brush and yard-waste.

"People dump items that you can't take to the landfills or ... things people have to pay extra for," Lane said.

As of 2005, there were 102 landfills in the state and Vermilion County has two of them – located in Danville and Hoopeston.

Allied Waste owns and operates them both. Dumping fees cost $49 a ton and the landfill does not accept tires, batteries, appliances or items with chemicals.

Between December 2005 and November 2006, both landfills collected more than 302,000 tons of trash.

From December 2006 until May, the landfills have collected about 137,500 tons of trash, said Lynn Wolgamot, Vermilion County's recycling coordinator and Keep Vermilion County Beautiful's executive director.

The county offers special collection days throughout the year to allow people a way to unload appliances and tires.

These items aren't as prevalent in illegal dump sites as they once were, said Kolby Riggle, the county's environmental health director.

Still there are "layers and layers" of trash found in illegal dump sites, he said.

The county has investigated more than 100 complaints of illegal dumping and illegal trash burning so far this year. There are two county employees dedicated to investigating the complaints.

Tracking down the offender is difficult, Riggle said, estimating that about 10 percent of their investigations results in finding the offender.

"If we cannot catch the person, then it's the property owner's responsibility," he said.

The department will work with property owners to alleviate the problem, and in some cases, even obtain grant money to help out, Riggle said.

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