Seeing More Illegal Dumping and Littering in Vermont? Here's Why.

Seeing More Illegal Dumping and Littering in Vermont? Here's Why.

posted Thursday, December 10, 2020

by Kelly Stettner, Director of Black River Action Team

On a recent trip past Ryegate, VT, I stopped by an out-of-the-way little nature spot on Route 302 between I-91 and Route 5. Managed by the State of Vermont as the "Wells River Access Area," this spot is tucked away from view and a tranquil spot to enjoy the beauty of the Wells River and the solitude of unspoiled nature. On this day, however, I was dismayed to see trash everywhere. Latex balloons littered the roadside by the guardrail along 302 as I turned down the access road. Cans, napkins, and several discarded face masks were scattered along the dirt road, and when I reached the turnaround area at the end of the cul-de-sac my heart just sank. It looked like someone had used it as their personal dumping ground. Piled on the edge of the road were several items, including a wicker hamper, a wooden cabinet full of cleaning products, a tub of drywall compound, and a broken lamp. This was just the beginning. Several bags of household trash were torn apart and the contents strewn throughout the underbrush. Spilled over the bank and into the water were over a dozen tires that I could see.

Since I had no trash bags or gloves with me, I resorted to taking photos of the mess before heading home. What to do, now? I wondered, where to send my photos? I reached out to several people and within days folks from the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife had made short work of it. Twenty-one tires in all, plus a truckload of trash were hauled out and properly disposed of.

As Dylan Smith, Facilities & Lands Coordinator for the State of Vermont and the super fellow who took point on this cleanup, explains: "In a typical year, the Department of Corrections (DOC) maintains around 190 of our access areas on a regular basis. With a shortage of staff in the prisons due to COVID-10, DOC has temporarily postponed many of their community programs to relieve their already shorthanded staff. This summer we have relied heavily on reports from Department staff and concerned citizens. Much of our maintenance work, mainly trash pick-up, this summer has fallen on volunteer groups, neighbors, and Department staff. Hopefully next spring, our sites will be back on a regular maintenance schedule."

Illegal dumping and littering threatens waterways, wildlife, and public health. Some trash can contain heavy metals and other noxious substances, and animals are at risk of eating or getting caught in plastics and metal scraps. In your travels, as you come across trashed areas that might be cases of illegal dumping, you can alert the State of Vermont by submitting (anonymously, if you prefer) a report online at https://dec.vermont.gov/enforcement/reporting. If you prefer to phone, give them a call at (802) 828-1254.

An additional resource is the trash report form at the Connecticut River Conservancy: https://www.ctriver.org/our-work/source-to-sea-cleanup/report-trash.

During a time when people feel disconnected and distant, we can all benefit from time in nature and the special connection we get from taking care of it.

Photo of truck-load of garbage by Dylan Smith, Facilities & Lands Coordinator for State of Vermont

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