Illegal dumping on upswing in Carter County

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff
   Eastern Tennessee is known nationally for its scenic beauty, and the maintenance of that beauty is the responsibility of those who call this region home. Lately, some of the citizens responsible for maintaining the county's environment are damaging it.
   The illegal dumping of used tires in Carter County has gotten out of hand and it has caught the attention of local and state authorities. "People need to start taking littering seriously. It pollutes the streams and makes the county an eye sore. The community is judged on how clean it is kept and a lot of times people get the wrong impression of Carter County because of people illegally littering," Sheriff John Henson said.
   Discarded tires were found at three separate locations in Stoney Creek this past week. More than 35 used tires were dumped behind Unaka High School. Approximately 150 tires were discarded on rural roads off of Peter's Hollow Rd., and on private land.
   Richard Lewis, 119 Lewis Cole Loop, filed a report with the Carter County Sheriff's Department after he found a truckload of tires on his property. Lewis' neighbors recognized the vehicle that dumped the tires by his stream. Lewis called the owner of the vehicle and asked that the tires be removed. Constable, Raymond Pritchard, stated by Friday afternoon half of the tires on Lewis' property had been removed.
   Unfortunately, most of the illegal dumping in the county is not resolved as easily as the incidents in Stoney Creek, and perpetrators have to be prosecuted. The illegal dumping of solid waste holds tough local and state penalties.
   The Carter County Sheriff's Department works hard to prosecute those responsible for dumping solid waste illegally. "If they are caught littering anything from a gum wrapper to a cigarette package, it is considered littering and they could be fined from $50 to $500. The penalty could also include jail time between nine days and 11 months in jail, depending on the seriousness of the offense," Sheriff Henson said. Perpetrators are also required to pick up a certain amount of garbage as a penalty for unauthorized dumping.
   Some connect the recent illegal dumpings of tires in the county to the new fee for tire disposal at the Carter County Landfill. This January, the Carter County Commission allowed the landfill to begin charging tire dealers for disposing of their old tires.
   Dealers are now charged $75 per ton of tires they bring to the landfill, and they are not happy about it. "We have to take our tires to the landfill still, but now we are getting double taxed for them," Ed Birchfield, of Birchfield Tires said. "It is unfair because we pay a tax to the state and then we have to turn around and pay again up there at the landfill."
   Regardless of who is responsible for the unauthorized disposal of tires in the county, the penalties remain steady. "Illegal littering is a crime that occurs too much in the remote areas," Sheriff Henson said. "No one is going to be lenient about this, we are not going to tolerate illegal dumping."
   The Tennessee Department of Solid Waste Management defines solid waste as any solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous material or refuse that has lost its recyclable capabilities. Any citizen suspected of disposing of solid waste in an unlawful manner will receive attention from the state agency.
   Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act. Section 68-211-104 outlines four unlawful manners of solid waste disposal. They are; depositing solid waste into the waters of the state, burning solid waste in an unauthorized manner, operating a solid waste processing facility improperly, and transporting, processing or disposing of solid waste in violation of state law.
   D. Larry Gilliam, Director of Solid Waste Department for the Tennessee Department of Environment of Conservation, enforces the Solid Waste Disposal Act. His first step in enforcement is defining which of the four regulations have been violated. He then sends a letter of violation notification to the perpetrators.
   The alleged violators then have 10 days to prove to the Solid Waste Department that the solid material in question is being stored for future use, before further action is taken. If no legitimate proof is given for storage, Gilliam invites the perpetrators to a compliance review meeting where they can try to make their case. If the compliance meeting does not resolve the situation, Gilliam can go to the courts and seek injunctive relief.
   The illegal dumping of tires has serious environmental and public health implications. "Old tires are breeding grounds for container type mosquitos that only need a small amount of water to survive," Gilliam said. Gilliam also stated that illegal dumping of tires often results in a public nuisance and fire hazards.
   Citizens are urged to take all of their used tires to the Transfer Station, Hwy. 91, or to the Carter County Landfill, Landfill Rd., to avoid illegal dumping charges.