ROCKINGHAM — Littering is a problem in Richmond County, said Solid Waste and Recycling Director Jerry Austin — and getting caught red-handed can be expensive.
“I hope it’s getting better,” Austin said. “I mean, we’ve started writing tickets for people who weren’t tarping their loads and letting the trash blow out.”
Still, despite the threat of fines, garbage can be found along the sides of county roads.
“They toss them out and we get a hold of them,” Austin said. “If we find an address to trace back to the person, we do that. But we won’t go after people on hearsay. If someone calls in and says ‘so and so with this license number just threw stuff out’ we don’t do that.”
Austin said that if an enforcement officer sees anyone littering, the officer will take immediate action.
“If that happens, actually any law enforcement officer can fine that individual according to statute,” Austin clarified. “It’s expensive, fairly costly.”
Littering of up to one bag weighing less than 250 lbs. can result in fines of $50 for a 1st offense, $150 for a 2nd offense, and $500 for a 3rd and each additional offense.
According to the Richmond County Solid Waste Ordinance, “…all waste must be transported in a manner that will prevent contents from falling, leaking, spilling, or blowing out of the transport vehicle onto our roadways. This applies to all vehicles hauling waste, including passenger vehicles.”
One of Austin’s concerns is for the image of our county in the eyes of people driving through or businesses considering expanding into the area.
“Its’ a common sense thing to dispose of your waste properly,” he said. “I would hope people would understand littering is not what we want people to do, for sure. It’s a problem, and the citizens are the ones who have got to help correct it.
“I’ve lived in this county my whole life. I want it to prosper and not be stagnant,” he went on. “So far, Allen Hodges has written 16 tickets for illegal dumping or littering. We’re pushing, trying to get people to understand this is not a habit we want to be in.”
“I think it’s improved the last couple of months,” said Allen Hodges of solid waste enforcement. “I think we have gotten some flyers out at the trash sites. They’re handing them out to people, so if you don’t cover your debris and trash in your vehicle and it blows out, there will be citations.”
Hodges said there is a type of person who will not recognize the importance of keeping the county clean unless they have to pay a fine for not doing their part.
“I was traveling on Wiregrass Road, and here came a trailer through there and about two-thirds of his load came off there,” County Commissioner Herb Long said. “So I caught up with him and let him know, and he said he’d clean it up. I went back by and he’d gotten some of it, but not all of it.
“People like that in the county, they don’t care how trashy it is in our county. People like that need citations. It’s gotten better in the last year or so, but I think we’ve got a long way to go.”
According to Long, most people living in Richmond County do not fall into that category.
“The majority of people in the county want clean roadsides,” he said. “But like any other county in any other state, you’ve got a handful that make it bad for all the rest. I think there needs to be a fine, and not a $25 or $50 fine, but a substantial fine. And if that doesn’t work, I think they might need to spend a night or two in jail, so they can think about what they’re doing.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.