Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Bowen: Dumping brings sloppy start to the new year

We’re slobs.

That is a logical conclusion after a recent mile-long walk along the road right of way fronting the western edge of the Cypress Creek Preserve in Land O’ Lakes.

I’ve catalogued the trash on this trek in the past, but this was the first time I’ve made the walk since the county extended Collier Parkway northward and altered the route of Parkway Boulevard more than a half-dozen years ago. The new road left a triangle of land, the eastern side of which is owned by the county, sitting between Collier and the preserve.

Guess where the most trash is getting dumped? More on that momentarily.

A sample of the roadside litter, beginning just north of the 15 mph school zones at Pine View elementary and middle schools, includes: A brown love seat; plastic water bottles; and some empty Bud Light tall boys bagged neatly in a Speedway plastic bag tied shut.

So, there are tidy litter bugs and they travel. The nearest Speedway store is nine miles away.

Keep going and the ground holds empty packages of Marlboro Golds, a plastic gallon jug that had held Publix diet sweet tea, Four Loko cans (14 percent alcohol), plus discarded food and drink containers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Doughnuts and 7-Eleven.

The lid for a garden salad (best if sold before Nov. 28) sat near a pair of empty Coke Zero cans. Clearly, some litterbugs are watching their weight.

I even found a pair of navy blue Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, approximately size 12 and in good condition. Retail value if purchased new is $54.99.

There were dozens more Bud Light cans and empty eight-, 12- and 18-pack boxes. Dilly dilly.

The assumption here is that these are remnants from some teen-agers or young adults. That thinking is based on the preponderance of junk food and alcohol containers in a relatively remote location.

Consider the behavior of the young partiers. You wonder why they feel entitled to trash the landscape? Look at the behavior of their role models. That patch of land between Collier and the preserve is now an illegal dump site. And this is not a case of kids tossing beer cans. This is criminal behavior by grown-ups avoiding the cost of paying tipping fees at the county trash plant.

Jim Craun, a Pasco County Department of Public Works engineering inspector overseeing environmental enforcement, visited the site on the first work day of the new year.

"This is unbelievable,’’ Craun said afterward. "We’ve been monitoring that location for two years. It’s never-ending out there.’’

A county crew removed a mattress, sofa (Rooms to Go became Rooms that Went) and other rubbish on Jan. 3. A day later, more trash was replacing it. The stockpile out there included debris from a demolished building, plus chunks of 4-inch thick concrete that likely had been a patio. A tree cutter had dumped oak tree logs, some of which measured 15 feet long. There was carpeting, padding, sand bags, sprinkler plumbing, broken furniture and old clothes.

The trash even found its way inside the Cypress Creek Preserve where somebody had disposed of the insulated cover for a rectangular-shaped hot tub. A six-pack of Heineken bottles sat on top of it.

The county is investigating the illegal dumping. On the day of my walk, a county worker also was on site and searched for identifying paperwork that might provide a name or address to trace the source of the debris.

Data from the county shows the Public Works Department removed 612 tons of debris from county rights of way in 2016. Here’s an oddity, though. The least amount of litter was removed in January, just 6 tons or less than 1 percent of the annual total.

The effort is intended to make sure the roadside litter doesn’t end up pushed into drainage ditches and then carried to ponds, lakes or the Gulf of Mexico when the heavy rains come in the summer.

Since 2012, Pasco investigated 171 dumping cases and assessed fines totaling more than $166,000. Just in 2017, the county handled 58 cases.

Meanwhile, 53 civic groups clean sections of 54 roads around the county through the Keep Pasco Beautiful adopt-a-road program.

Groups must pick up litter four times a year to remain in good standing.

It is a never-ending chore.

"It really doesn’t matter if we’re in the rural part of the county or in a highly populated part of county,’’ said Craun, "people are dumping.’’

The litter along Parkway Boulevard also included an empty can of Bang, a beverage that markets itself as "potent brain and body fuel.’’

I don’t think the brain part worked.

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