PEKIN — The disposable nature of mankind brings a harsh reality to those who like things neat and tidy — there are some people in the world who will dump garbage and used items anywhere.
The city of Pekin and most of the municipalities around Tazewell County have some sort of pickup for larger items that don’t fit in garbage containers, yet the evidence is clear that many people don’t care. Offenders carry old sofas or mattresses and then wrestle it out of the car to dump it along a road rather than take it to the curb to have it removed for free. State law prohibits the dumping of televisions and electronics in landfills, so now people dump those items as well.
Pekin City Manager Tony Carson said when he first arrived in Pekin he rode with police officers who had orders to watch for people dumping in certain areas — an ongoing order. Carson said he is developing a plan for large item pickup on special days.
“The police department certainly is diligently trying to discourage and find any of the people who happen to be doing (this),” said Carson. He said businessmen and local residents have indicated an “emphatic” desire to see beautification projects.
“I have a small group that (beautification) is going to be their focus — to work with different area groups, master gardeners and service groups to (to help with) the beautification and looking good,” said Carson. “To me that certainly is one of the priorities. You want a community that looks good, that takes pride in itself. I think all of those things are very important.”
Pekin established a $20 large item pickup fee in 2014, but it was repealed in late 2015.
In February 2015, former City Manager Darin Girdler closed several streets near the Pekin riverfront because people were dumping mattresses, furniture, televisions and junk.
Pekin Operations Supervisor for Streets and Solid Waste Bob Shaw said little has changed.
“People are going to dump no matter what,” said Shaw. “Right now, I don’t see a lot of it. It seems like to me it depends on the time of year. Fee or no fee, we’ve always had it, so we pick up furniture — I don’t see much of a big change at all.”
Pekin Park District
Pekin’s parks are not spared by dumpers. Last week someone dumped televisions, buckets of junk and other items there.
Pekin Park District Director Cameron Bettin said the problem in the parks is more rare, though it does happen.
“It’s not that bad for us,” said Bettin. “Yeah, occasionally we will find stuff in our parks or some of our secluded areas.
“It’s a park. You’re going to find a TV now and then, a bag of garbage thrown out along the road, but I don’t think it’s overly bad. We’re out and about in our parks on a daily basis, so what we do find we clean up quickly. Our thinking is like graffiti. As soon as you clean it up, hopefully it deters others from doing it because they’re not seeing garbage.”
Bettin said having a presence in the parks frequently helps deter the issue and he hopes people are less likely to damage parks because of what they mean to the community.
Tazewell County Health Department Director of Environmental Health Evelyn Neavear said the townships usually pick up items along the road. The Environmental Protection Agency every year sponsors a used tire pickup for the townships, which the TCHD helps coordinate.
The health department handles open dumping by a homeowner on his own property or when someone dumps debris on another homeowner’s property.
“Oh, sure, someone finds an open ravine and dump whatever is in their truck,” said Neavear. “Unfortunately, it becomes the problem of the property owner. That’s the unfortunate thing. Nobody knows who did it, so it goes back on the property owner.”
TCHD Environmental Health Supervisor Melissa Goetze said virtually everything that is dumped has the potential to be a health hazard to the public, depending on what chemicals are used in the manufacturing of the item. Goetze is also a Non-Hazardous Solid Waste Management Inspector for the EPA.
“An open dump is a place that’s going to be continuously dumped on, not just a couple of items,” said Goetze. “It’s always a problem because there is an environmental impact to it.
“We used to have places we could take electronics for recycling and the way things are now, you can’t take a lot of those for free. More people like to dump them along side the road or in a ravine or ditch somewhere. If people see one they just start dumping more.”
Goetz said that many stores that sell TVs have programs to take the used one. TCHD keeps an up-to-date list on its website of places where citizens can take used items.
She said sometimes there is a fee involved, but, “You’re doing your environment good if you take care of things even if there is a small fee — you’re handling it correctly.”
Washington does not have a huge problem with dumping because there is very little rural territory within the city limits.
Washington Building and Zoning Supervisor Becky Holmes said reports of junk on property, dumping or liter are complaint driven. If materials are left on the street in front of a house, Waste Management is called to haul it away, which costs the homeowner $30 to $50. If debris is on a homeowner’s property, a notice is sent giving them seven days to get the material moved before Waste Management is called.
East Peoria and Morton did not return a call for comment.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin
Issue: Dumping of unwanted items is an issue around the county that is worse during certain times of the year.
Local Impact: Discarded items cost taxpayers money as government employees pick them up and then have to pay to dispose of them in landfills. The dumped materials cause health hazards.