MERAMEC REGION'S LARGEST ILLEGAL DUMP
DNR catches illegal dumpers on tape; locals vow to keep watchful eye on area
ST. JAMES-Thanks to a partnership of local, state and federal agencies, the largest illegal dumpsite in the Meramec Region, located on County Road 6630 near Duke, has been cleaned up and ceases to exist. And local residents plan to keep a watchful eye to make sure that the former dumping grounds stay clean.
The effort to rid public and private land of trash and debris required about 1,000 man-hours, according to the Meramec Regional Planning Commission, who spearheaded the effort. Volunteers along with local, state and federal agencies personnel worked several Fridays and Saturdays from January to April to reclaim the land, said Tammy Snodgrass, MRPC environmental programs manager.
When all was done, a total of 82.09 tons of trash were removed and properly landfilled, and another 15 tons of metals and 350 tires were removed and recycled. "When we began cleaning up some of the legal dumps in the region, this is one that we didn't think we could tackle because it was so massive," explained Snodgrass. But with a little urging from the Phelps County Commission, the county highway department, MRPC decided to see what could be accomplished, especially since employees of Brewer Science and Briggs and Stratton had volunteered to assist. The dumpsite was about 1,000 feet long by 250 feet wide. "It's amazing how everyone came together to get this done," said Nongluk Tunyavanich MRPC's environmental programs specialist who supervised the project. And now that energy has turned to keeping it clean. " We really appreciate the fact that several area residents have volunteered to keep an eye on the site for us," Snodgrass said. And the fact that Phelps County plans to prosecute illegal dumpers should deter activity as well, she added. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources recently placed a surveillance camera in the area and captured illegal dumpers on tape. So far criminal charges have been filed against two Phelps County residents and one Texas County resident who were caught on tape dumping at the site.
The site on County Road 6630 has been a local eyesore and concern for over 30 years. Many local residents expressed their relief and appreciation that the site was now cleaned up.
The organizations involved in the cleanup, in addition to MRPC were the Phelps County Commission, Phelps County Road Department, Phelps County Sheriff's Department, Missouri Department of Conservation, US Forest Service, Department of Corrections, local property owners and volunteers from Briggs and Stratton and Brewer Science.
The effort, funded through a grant from the USDA Rural Development with matching funds from Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management District, is part of a pilot project launched last fall by MRPC to clean-up large illegal dumpsites. The USDA funded portion of the project concludes in June. The local solid waste district will consider continuing the project on a smaller scale using its grant dollars generated by landfill tipping fees.
The county, sheriff's department, MDC, the Forest Service, Brewer Science, Briggs and Stratton, volunteers and MRPC all provided equipment for the effort. Several area businesses donated or discounted services or supplies including Wal-Mart Distribution Center #6069, Country Mart of St. James, Midwest Sales of Cuba, Panera Bread of Rolla and Watkins Portable Toilets. The Duke Fire Department opened its facility to make coffee for the volunteers.
"We really appreciate all the cooperation and assistance we had on this cleanup," said Tammy Snodgrass, MRPC environmental programs manager. "The Phelps County Commissioners and the county highway crews are to be commended for their efforts and the use of their equipment. It would not have been possible to cleanup the dumpsite of this size without the help from so many agencies. The value of the services provided by Phelps County Commission alone amounted to nearly $19,700. The actual cost would have been at least double that figure if we had not had all the volunteered manpower and equipment." Snodgrass said. MRPC, using grant funds, covered $2,92 in landfill fees.
"That would have been much higher had we not recycled all the metals," Tunyavanich said. The cost to process tire are covered under a separate ORSWMD grant.
Prior to clean up efforts, MRPC completed a survey and documented 69 illegal dumps in the Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management District, which includes Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties. Water sources are particularly vulnerable to the effects of illegal dumping as hazardous materials can seep through the ground and contaminate water supplies.
An illegal dumping advisory committee was formed and consists of local landowners, county officials, local media and representatives of local, state and federal agencies. The committee is advising MRPC on effective methods for educating residents, organizing volunteers and cleaning dumpsites. Local residents were asked to volunteer time to help clean dumpsites and make sure that the cleaned sites remain clean.
Besides being aesthetically unpleasing, illegal dumping lowers property values and poses an unsanitary risk to residents living near a dumpsite. The Missouri Department of Transportation spends more than $6 million every year to pick up litter and county governments spend thousands as well. MRPC staff is currently working with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, county sheriffs, prosecuting attorneys and judges to catch and prosecute illegal dumpers in the Ozark Rivers district. MRPC also maintains a hotline to report illegal dumping. To report an illegal dump, you may call 1-800-NO2-DUMP (1-800-662-3867), or call your county commissioner or sheriff. A waste disposal guide for the Ozark Rivers district is available at city halls or utility offices in every city in the district. This guide points residents to businesses who accept hard-to-dispose-of items, including refrigerators, tires and motor oil. The guide is also available on MRPC's website.
For more information on the MRPC, ORSWMD or the illegal dump cleanup program, please contact Snodgrass or Tunyavanich at (573) 265-2993.