Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Litter-control efforts miss some areas

April 08, 2009 @ 12:07 AM


The Herald-Dispatch

Click here to read the entire article and view photos on the Herald Dispatch website.

HUNTINGTON -- While a growing group of volunteers are at work to keep litter under control inside Huntington's city limits, the county is often left with few options to keep rural areas clean.

Most of the 1,647 volunteers in the Adopt YOUR Block anti-litter program focus their efforts inside the city. That means relatively few of the volunteers in that program pick up trash elsewhere in Cabell County, and the county says it has fewer resources to focus on the problem.

Meanwhile, the city plans to step up its efforts for keeping neighborhoods clean.

For example, included in the city's 2009-2010 budget is money for purchasing two dump trucks, said Brandi Jacobs-Jones, Huntington's interim public works director. The additional trucks, Jacobs-Jones said, will enable the city's Public Works Department to schedule routine litter pickups in the next several months.

The city also intends to run two street-sweeper shifts beginning in mid-May.

Huntington also recently announced that the Mayor's Committee for a Sustainable Community will conduct the inaugural "Huntington Clean Sweep" Saturday, April 25, through Saturday, May 2. The event will focus on cleaning up both the downtown and residential areas of the city.

In addition, Jim Johnson has been hired as the new constituent liaison services employee who will advise the mayor on issues of concern to residents. Jacobs-Jones said residents can call Johnson at 304-696-5540 to report litter and illegal dumps in Huntington.

Some cleanup efforts are under way at the county level, but one enforcement initiative is in limbo.

Justin Lockwood, assistant director of the Western Regional Day Report Center, helps run the only county-sponsored groups in Cabell and Wayne counties that pick up litter.

The cleanup crews are made up of about 10 to 15 nonviolent criminal offenders who travel around Wayne and Cabell counties between two and four days a week for eight hours a day.

Cabell County Assistant Manager Chris Tatum said the county commission funds a number of eco-friendly initiatives -- including spending $100,000 a year on the day report crews. The majority of the initiatives, Tatum said, are recycling programs.

Tatum recommended that residents call the sheriff's department to report illegal dumping in the county.

The key to combating litter, Lockwood said, is persistence.

"We believe if you chip away at a stone long enough, you're going to create something nice," Lockwood said. "The crews aren't going anywhere, in fact we're going to continue to grow."

Lockwood said he expects to add another cleanup crew to each county so they can cover a larger


Right now, he said, litter covers all of the county roads and it's difficult to make a dent in the problem with only one crew per county.

"Unfortunately, litter is a communitywide problem," Lockwood said. "There's plenty to pick up throughout the community, and we're glad to do it."

Lockwood said the center will launch a Web site soon that will allow citizens to suggest sites for future cleanups and see which sites are going to be cleaned next. Currently, employees of the county courthouse, members of the local court system and concerned citizens regularly report areas in need of cleanup to the day report center.

The Cabell and Wayne solid waste authorities are limited to a recycling program and cleaning up illegal dumps. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection also aids with cleaning up illegal dumps.

In January 2008, the Cabell County Commission approved Jim Smith as the litter control officer for the county upon the recommendation of the Cabell County Solid Waste Authority. Smith's appointment came after the commission allocated about $15,000 from its contingency fund in late December 2007 to purchase surveillance equipment to try to put a stop to illegal dumping.

His responsibilities included setting up the camera at one of the 34 identified illegal dump sites in the county and providing video evidence to the county sheriff's department and local branch of the state DEP to enforce the fines and penalties associated with illegal dumping.

Smith, who volunteered for the unpaid position, vacated his post in 2008, leaving the equipment unused and the county without a litter control officer.

Ralph Taylor, chairman of the Cabell County Solid Waste Authority, said he has been unable to fill the unpaid position and has yet to suggest to the commission another person for the post. Taylor said he has asked the commission to apply for a state grant to fund the position.