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story.lead_photo.caption Cpl. Jason Nubbie of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, inspects a large pile of construction debris Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, that had been dumped near the shore of Beaver Lake along Blue Springs Road in Washington County. Nubbie helps to coordinate community service cleanups and planned to bring a crew of workers to the site at a later date. Washington and Benton counties field and investigate hundreds of calls per year about illegal dump sites, much of which are near rivers that feed into Beaver Lake. - Photo by Andy Shupe

FAYETTEVILLE -- Officials in Washington and Benton counties are focused on reducing illegal dump sites through education, recycling and removal services and enforcing environmental laws.

"It's definitely something we can't ignore," said Robin Reed, director of the Boston Mountain Solid Waste District. The district is among several agencies that investigate illegal dumping.

Upcoming Headwaters-White River Cleanup

The Beaver Watershed Alliance plans a cleanup event for the headwaters of the White River to remove trash and bulky waste from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 20.

Volunteers will meet at the Mill Creek Off-Highway Vehicle Trailhead at 9 a.m. and be assigned to locations to clean. There will be a free lunch at 11:45 p.m.

Supplies, including trash bags, gloves and trash pickers, will be provided. For more information or to volunteer, contact melissa@beaverwatershedalliance.org or 750-8007.

Source: Beaver Watershed Alliance

Soil versus Trash Pollution

Illegal dump sites, including trash, is a problem in Northwest Arkansas, but the biggest pollution concern for Beaver Lake is soil and phosphorus, said John Pennington, Beaver Watershed Alliance director. Stream bank erosion contributes tons of sediment and phosphorus to the lake annually, but most people believe the No. 1 problem is trash, likely because it’s more visible, Pennington said.

Source: Staff Report

Illegal dump sites can be environmental hazards that cause soil and water contamination and attract nuisance animals, Reed said. Illegal dumping persists despite multiple programs and grants. People violating environmental laws can be arrested, fined and taken to court, according to state law.

Environmental officers in Benton County received about 337 complaints and Washington County another 256 last year through November, according to records from both counties.

The amount of dumping has dropped in the past two years, Benton County Judge Barry Moehring said. Fewer cases end up with a fine or in Circuit Court, too. Moehring partially credited the county's decision to open three collection centers instead of continuing its semiannual cleanup days.

The centers -- located in Siloam Springs, Centerton and Rogers -- opened in 2016, said John Sudduth, general services administrator. Residents took about 875 tons of metal and waste to collection centers that year, Benton County spokeswoman Channing Barker said via email. The county took in about 1,066 tons of metal and waste, which goes to a landfill, through November of this year.

The numbers do not include all household hazardous waste, electronics or tires collected.

The county plans to open another center in Bella Vista in 2018.

Washington County Attorney Brian Lester, the county spokesman, said previously the county plans to focus on enforcing environmental laws. He did not answer questions on illegal dumping sent several times via email or a phone message left at his office. He responded via email Thursday but did not answer questions by Friday afternoon.

The amount of illegal dumping seems to have plateaued in Washington County, even as the population increases, Reed said. She said the district has educators on staff and services meant to give people options to legally and cheaply get rid of unwanted material. That includes recycling and taking waste, such as tires, for free.

"We try to give every option and avenue available, but no matter what you do about it, dumping just still happens," Reed said.

Statewide problem

Waste dumped along roads or in creeks is a problem throughout the state, not just in one area, Kelly Robinson, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, wrote in an email.

The state funds districts to help fight illegal dumping and awarded about $1.5 million in grants to Boston Mountain Solid Waste and Benton County Solid Waste districts last year, she said.

Thirty licensed officers employed by solid waste districts, counties or Environmental Quality investigate illegal dump sites statewide. Law enforcement officers also enforce environmental laws, Robinson said.

Environmental Quality responded to 300 illegal dumping complaints, including 14 in Benton County and seven in Washington County in 2017, she said.

At least in Benton County, it's rare for environmental officers to issue citations because most people want to clean up sites, Sudduth said. They just need help, he said.

In Benton County, investigators described about 37 illegal dump sites created by the resident or property owner. In Washington County, illegal dump sites are often from people moving out, Reed said. When investigators find large quantities of tires, it's often a business illegally dumping, she said.

Information showing dump sites reported in Washington County did not show who was responsible. Information for Washington County was not available. Environmental Affairs Director Michelle Viney resigned Dec. 20. She did not answer questions sent via email earlier this month.

Viney's position is among three that will transfer to the Boston Mountain Solid Waste District, which also will take over recycling programs previously run by the county today. The move is supposed to increase efficiency and save the county money, Lester said previously.

For Beaver Lake

Trash sites pop up all over both counties. Tires, garbage and furniture comprised most of the reported material dumped, records show.

Complaints about illegal dumping occur the most near Beaver Lake and the larger cities, according to the documents. Reed said she has noticed trash seems to collect around boating areas, too. Sudduth said highly used areas such as lake coves collect a lot of waste.

Volunteers and agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, work together to pick up trash around the lake. Volunteers remove about 20,000 pounds of trash from the watershed, tributaries and lake per year, according to the Beaver Watershed Alliance.

Beaver Lake is the No. 1 amenity in Benton County, Moehring said. The lake also is the drinking water supply for the region.

"It's a huge economic driver for the region. It benefits everyone to have as clean and as pristine of a lake as we can," he said.

Even trash isn't the biggest environmental hazard facing Beaver Lake -- that's soil erosion and phosphorus -- but dump sites are eyesores with economic impact, officials said.

"You don't want to be driving down the road and see a couch on the side of the road or a TV or a bag of trash."

NW News on 01/01/2018

Print Headline: Agencies continue fight on illegal dumping

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