City to punish illegal dumpers

Published 10:41 am Monday, March 31, 2014

033114-Illegal Dumping-JSurratt-03

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield stood on a pile of building materials on the side of North Fisher Street and looked at the collection of trash, household garbage and debris cascading down the side of a ravine on the street’s north side.

“Look at this,” he said. “This is disgusting. There’s white goods (appliances like refrigerators), TV sets, wood. Down at the bottom, there’s two seats from a car.”

North Fisher is one of an untold number of illegal dumps scattered across the city on city rights of way, private property or seldom traveled streets — wherever dumpers are confident they won’t be seen unloading their vehicles of construction debris, appliances or household garbage.

It doesn’t take much for an illegal site to start and grow.

“All you need is a small pile by the side of the road, and people will stop and add to it,” city building inspector Benjie Thomas said.

“One dump site will grow to 3 to 4 loads in a matter of days, mainly because when somebody’s looking to dump illegally and sees a site on the side of the road where people can’t look out and see ’em, they’ll stop and dump,” Mayfield said.

North Fisher, which is in the North Ward, has been a popular site off and on for six years, he said. The small, dead-end street on the north side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just east of the old Kuhn Hospital, curves sharply after its intersection with MLK, effectively hiding the dump and anyone illegally adding debris.

In the spring and summer, a thick growth of Kudzu covers the debris. Mayfield said he learned the dump was back in service because its kudzu cover was dead, and a resident on North Poplar Street, which is north of the street, saw the debris from their front porch and called in the complaint.

Last week, Mayfield lashed out at illegal dumpers before a meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, warning them, “We will catch you and punish you to the fullest extent.”

According the city’s solid waste ordinance, the penalty for illegal dumping is a fine of from $50 to $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. But Mayfield said it is hard to catch people illegally dumping trash and debris, adding most of the illegal dumping goes on at night.

“They’ll pull up to the shoulder of the road, especially in the wee hours of the night,” he said. “If they’ve got 3 to 4 minutes to dump it out of the truck off on the shoulder of the road, they’ll dump it off the shoulder of the road right in the center of town.”

He said a woman whose property is periodically hit by illegal dumpers called him one Sunday about a dump on her land.

“She said she came home from church and found a pile in her yard,” he said. “The people doing it knew she would not be home and no one was there to watch them.”

That could soon change. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said he intends to increase surveillance for illegal dumpers, using not only the police department, but other city workers. He will discuss his plans Tuesday when city officials meet to discuss the city’s litter and trash problems.

Part of his plan, he said, includes increasing the authority of the city’s community service workers to call in illegal dumps if they spot them in the city. “I want to put up surveillance cameras to see if we can catch these people and identify them,” he said.

“Enforcement is the key,” South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said. “I know we’re not going to catch everyone, but if we begin cracking down and strict, maybe we can stop most of the people from doing it.”

While owners of private property are responsible for cleaning any illegal dump on their land, dumps on city rights of way, like North Fisher, are cleaned by city crews. Street department superintendent Skipper Whittington said it is one of up to six illegal dumps on city rights of way set for cleaning by city crews.

“When it gets on city property, it’s our responsibility,” Mayfield said. “And it takes time to do it. We had one on Fort Hill Drive two weeks ago that took us about half a day to clean up. This one (North Fisher) could take them a week. People don’t realize how much time it takes and what it costs the city to clean these up.”

“I want the people who are dumping stuff to know that I’m going to catch them,” he said, “one day I’m going to catch them, and when I do I’m going to see that they are punished.”

He called on residents to help out. “If anyone sees someone dumping illegally, they can call me at my office or on my cell phone at 601-831-0959. If they can get a license number and a description of the car and we can go from that.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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