West Virginia has an estimated 15,000 illegal dumps. A large amount of trash can also be found along our highways and river banks as a result of improper management of solid waste. People dump trash and burn it illegally for many different reasons. Some people want to avoid the expense of proper disposal. Others don’t want to make the effort to disposal of it properly or to recycle. For example, some items like an old mattress or couch are large and bulky, and the landfill may be miles away. And for some families, the tradition has always been to burn their trash.
West Virginia Garbage Disposal Laws
Mandatory Garbage Disposal (WV Code 22C-4-10)
Each household and business must do one of the following:
- Subscribe to, pay for, and use a garbage collection service
- Provide proof that they have properly disposed of their garbage at an approved solid waste facility
Illegal Dumping (WV Code 22-15-10, 22-15-15, 22-11-24)
- No one may “create, contribute to, or operate an open dump” or allow one to exist on his/her property.
- Violators of this law face civil penalties of up to $5,000 a day and criminal penalties of $100-$50,000 a day and up to three years in prison.
Problems Created by Illegal Garbage Disposal
Here are just some of the problems that can be created by illegal disposal of garbage:
- Litter and trash is unsightly and portrays a negative image.
- Wind and rain will disburse the trash.
- Burning trash puts contaminants into the air and hinders the development of industry and jobs.
- Trash dumps that are set on fire can cause forest fires.
- Wildlife is endangered when animals consume or become entangled in the garbage.
- Trash in streams can clog them, causing erosion and other water flow problems.
- Decaying garbage produces leachate and pollutes water.
- Wastes that are hazardous further magnify water and air pollution problems.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) spends almost $1 million annually on dump and river cleanups. The West Virginia Division of Highways, many volunteer organizations, and other groups also spend time and money cleaning up illegal dumps and roadside trash each year as well. Some solutions to our solid waste disposal problems include:
- ensuring that comprehensive trash disposal services are available in all areas
- making the public aware of the environmental and legal consequences of improper waste management
- using active enforcement policies
- instilling a sense of pride and personal accountability and understanding that improper waste management affects others
In Jefferson County, Keep Jefferson Beautiful is a volunteer organization with the express purpose of promoting and supporting programs leading to the elimination of trash and litter here in our county.