While most of the state is doing a good job of Staying Home right now, one thing that isn’t staying put is trash and debris. Roadside litter had been an ongoing battle, but we’re seeing a disturbing rise in illegal dumping at our rest areas and other state land in the past month. And it’s one we need everyone’s help to stop.
The struggle of keeping highways free of litter is a mighty one. We spend more than $4 million a year on that very battle along with teaming with the Department of Ecology and Department of Corrections, but it’s one we don’t always win. We’ve also had problems before with people using our rest area dumpsters as their own personal dumping grounds.
|Trash cans and dumpsters at rest areas like this one at the Alpowa Summit on|
State Route 12 are for travelers’ incidental trash, not household garbage.
But now we’re seeing something beyond those usual challenges. Either because landfills are closed or they’re worried about dumping fees, people are leaving large amounts of trash and large items along roadsides and rest areas. Compounding matters, many of our crews are working from home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We’ve also suspended our Adopt A Highway volunteer program due to coronavirus concerns – so now is the worst possible time to see an uptick in illegal dumping.
The increased trash is not only an eyesore, it is a danger to our employees who find themselves faced with a trash pile that needs to be addressed. These piles of often-unknown materials can pose a direct health threat. Our workers do not know if what was discarded contains substances that might require full hazmat gear to keep them safe. With all but essential emergency work on hold, crews will not be cleaning up these dumpsites unless there is an immediate safety concern for those using the highway.
|Dumped trash along State Route 7 in Tacoma is not only unsightly – it’s illegal.|
Please help us keep our roads and rights of way clean.
In addition, this kind of dumping is illegal and can result in criminal prosecution as a misdemeanor, or even a gross misdemeanor for someone who litters in an amount of one cubic yard or more. Littering can also carry a $1,000 fine. Our crews are documenting these dump piles and reporting them to law enforcement for possible investigation and prosecution of the dumper.
If you see trash or debris in the roadway that poses an immediate risk to the life and safety of our highway travelers, please call 911 so crews can respond and remove it before it causes a crash. And if you do need to travel, please secure your loads and contain all of the litter you generate.
|It took two truck loads to haul away discarded appliances, rusted metal|
and other debris along SR 225 near Benton City in early April.
Ultimately, we are asking everyone to stop this litter at the source. Please make sure you’re disposing of your trash at an approved, legal location. Your consideration now will help our employees focus on the importance of maintaining and preserving our highways when we’re all back on the roads again.
Just like we’re all working together to slow the spread of COVID-19 by following the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, we need everyone’s help keeping our employees safe while keeping Washington beautiful.