County garbage collection scattered|[9/10/06]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 10, 2006

6,000 households not using legal haulers to dispose of waste.

The system of residential garbage disposal in Warren County outside the city limits of Vicksburg is one of irregular pickup times and individual hauler routes that can cover every hill and hollow of the county’s 618 square miles in a day’s time.

Yet, garbage generated by at least 6,000 homes and businesses countywide is unaccounted for.

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Estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005 put the non-municipal population of Warren County at 23,379. The 2000 Census of housing units in structure countywide was 20,789, with 10,364 in the city of Vicksburg.

With the balance of those structures being outside the city, and only 3,762 showing up on county lists as having paid to have their garbage taken away, it leaves about 6,000 households taking it to Waste Management themselves, disposing of it in commercial receptacles – which is legal with written permission from the receptable owner – or finding other, less lawful means of disposing of it.

The results of the final method, the illegal one, of dumping trash and garbage means the refuse can be spotted along many of the county’s busiest thoroughfares and otherwise scenic, secluded stretches.

Enforcing the county’s dumping ordinance is largely a reactive process, said Warren County Fire Coordinator and Environmental Officer Kelly Worthy, the official charged with enforcing the county’s garbage and rubbish disposal ordinance. As it is reported, it gets cleaned up, he said.

&#8220I rely heavily on the Road Department and the general public,” Worthy said. &#8220But it’s not as rampant as it used to be.”

An experiment with hidden surveillance cameras backfired some years ago, Worthy said, when the cameras themselves were stolen and the litter was left behind.

The fine for illegal dumping under county ordinances is $100 to $500, Worthy said. Areas that do not experience much vehicular traffic, or have dense population, tend to remain hotspots for dumping.

&#8220That’s been the general rule of thumb. Areas that are sparsely populated seem to be the trigger,” former Warren County Road Manager Rhea Fuller said.

More recently, current Road Manager Richard Winans said, Chickasaw Road, Burnt House Road and Rebecca Evans Drive continue to be prime examples of where dumping can be found.

&#8220We’re pretty clean right now.” Winans said. &#8220There’s been more people concerned about it.”

Picking up behind.

Winans credited the massive cleanup effort undertaken by his department following Hurricane Katrina as another reason for keeping dump sites to a minimum.

The county funds its monitoring of garbage pickup with a $1.25 surcharge added to bills a firm or individual charges.

From there, the contractor reports a client list to Worthy’s office to help the county track garbage.

Households that do not appear on those records must provide proof, in a letter signed by the contracted person or firm, that they are attempting to lawfully dispose.

Attempts to notify county households that do not have an active record of paying for disposal services have been sporadic. Compliance program secretary April Collins said the county tries to stay in contact with them.

&#8220We just make sure we are sending letters out,” she said.

Waste Management is far and away the largest contractor in the county with about 3,400 customers; Earth Friends Recycling and Disposal shows 730; and the county’s three private haulers pick up at 362 addresses.

Unlike the City of Vicksburg, which will begin next month charging $16.80 for garbage pickup, and most other counties in Mississippi, Warren County chooses not to engage in the sanitation business.

Instead, the decision to comply with the county’s garbage and rubbish disposal ordinance is left up to residents, who must contract on their own with companies or individuals permitted by the county to collect and haul garbage.

&#8220It’s better if the county stays out of it,” Worthy said.

Two companies, Waste Management and Earth Friends Recycling and Disposal of Tallulah, hold permits to collect and dispose of garbage in Warren County beyond city limits.

Paying to clean up.

While funds from FEMA to reimburse the county for about $176,000 in overtime pay during those days and weeks after Hurricane Katrina have yet to come in, other funds to help counties in Mississippi combat the problem have been available through the Department of Environmental Quality in Solid Waste Assistance Grants.

Statewide, MDEQ disbursed $757,000 this year to help counties with fighting illegal dump sites and educating the public about solid waste disposal.

Those funds can be allocated based on the state agency’s budget or applied for based on population.

Warren County was allocated $6,022 for 2006, an amount lower than in the past because of what program organizer Denise Wilson called &#8220a tight budget this year” in the department.

Worthy said the county’s share was down by a third because of Katrina.

&#8220It can take about that much to clean up a dump site,” he said.

The deadlines for cities and counties to apply for grants through MDEQ are Oct. 1 and April 1.

Those funds also help counties establish a White Goods Disposal Day and Waste Tire Collection Day, geared to provide suitable disposal of old appliances and non-commercially generated tires.

The last white goods day was Aug. 12 at Bovina Volunteer Fire Department. Taken in were three tandem loads of appliances including stoves, washers and dryers, Winans said.

About 118 tires were also gathered for disposal, he said.

Family tradition.

Meanwhile, for those private haulers involved in the business of making the twice-weekly trips to service zones determined by the hauler, the task of packing residential garbage into their trucks to take it away to Waste Management’s site on U.S. 61 South is something of a family tradition, handed down from one generation to the next.

&#8220I started 37 years ago when I inherited this from my uncles, Simon and Rudy Jefferson,” said John Hatchett, 58.

At one time, Hatchett said, he worked a regular job and hauled garbage. Now, his son, Russell and a nephew, Michael, assist him in operating two packer trucks to residents outside city limits and as a subcontractor for Waste Management inside the city. In a typical week, he said, his three-man operation picks up about 35 tons of trash countywide.

According to totals from Warren County’s compliance records, Hatchett provides his services to 161 customers outside the city limits. He usually runs on Mondays and Thursdays and bills a quarterly charge of $54, a price he expects to be rise due to fuel prices and the cost of keeping his county-mandated packer truck insured.

However, he plans to stay on the job as long as he can.

&#8220I haven’t missed a day picking up except for holidays,” he said.

Of the county’s only other two privately contracted haulers, Leon Drake, 83, has been in business the longest, 41 years, and stays in business with the help of relatives despite the usual challenges of his age.

&#8220It’s going pretty good,” he said.

The final private hauler, Oscar Mayfield, has collected garbage for 10 years and, like Drake, he charges a monthly rate of about $15.

Both men used pickups for years to collect garbage, which inevitably led to bags of trash being spilled and waste leaking onto roads and property.

That changed in 2005 when county supervisors heeded numerous complaints from the public, they said, and gave independent haulers a year to purchase packer trucks or some type of vehicle, as the regulations say, designed to collect and transport refuse and garbage.

Reports of a haulers using pickups instead of the packers still reach the Board of Supervisors on occasion. The excuse generally is that residents’ trash bags and cans are in narrow spaces, making it dicey for a packer truck to reach them.

Overall, though, the packer trucks apparently are being used.

&#8220It works out pretty good,” Mayfield said.