Lawrence County and the City of New Castle have joined forces in the fight against illegal dumping.

"Dumping has been a long-standing problem for most municipalities across Pennsylvania," said Jerry Zona, director of recycling and solid waste for Lawrence County.

Last year, code enforcement supervisor Patrick McGuire approached Zona about the prospect of borrowing some of the county's cameras to set up around the city to catch people dumping. 

Recently, though, McGuire learned the ins-and-outs of the cameras and they were installed.

"It's a good partnership," Mayor Chris Frye said, who noted he agreed with McGuire to approach the county about the collaboration.

On May 16, the new surveillance system caught a man in a white pickup truck dumping on the side of a road on the city's West Side.

When the man was brought in by the city police, Frye spoke to him.

"I felt the need to go talk to him personally and say, 'Do you not realize the impact of your dumping in terms of wasting resources?'" Frye recalled.

Zona agreed.

"It's such a waste of time to have public crews picking up other people's trash," he said. "We've got roads that need to be paved and other projects that need taken care of."

Between dispatching a crew, a truck, the hours spent cleaning up the site and disposing of the material in city-owned dumpsters, the cost of dumping piles up, Frye said.

According to the city's ordinance on dumping, the penalty is a fine of up to $1,000. The county penalty, Zona said, ranges from $50 to $300.

According to New Castle City Police Chief Robert Salem, the man in the white pickup truck wasn't charged, but instead agreed to do community service. He did so by hauling truckloads of trash dumped on Harbor Street out of the area.

Another city ordinance cites a rewards program where if a person identifies another person as a dumper, they could receive half of the funds paid in fines for compensation.

If the dumper is charged with paying a $1,000 fine, $500 would go to the person who identified them to authorities.

Frye explained illegal dumping contributes to the city's blight and is a big deterrent as some dumping occurs in high traffic areas.

Zona explained most of the illegal dumping incidents he encounters are people pretending to be waste-removal businesses, but end up dumping the material illegally to "make a quick buck."

Residents on social media, Zona said, have expressed concern instances of dumping would increase after the city transitioned into privatized garbage collection services, but he recalled when the city switched to the blue bag system in 1992, city residents were having the same suspicions.

The city signed a contract with Aiken Refuse late last year to collect municipal garbage beginning on April 1. When the collection services began, city hall had been closed to the public for 20 days due to COVID-19.

"The first thing that came across the desk when COVID hit was, what are our essential services and who stays on," Frye said. "The main essential service other than police and fire was garbage."

"Trash is a priority," Zona said. "For the people, it's not a priority because society is so materialistic. We're so conditioned to spend money on the things that we want, when it comes time to spend money on things we really need, we don't do it."

Since the contract with Aiken was approved, city residents have been vocal about their displeasure with the cost of services.

Frye explained paying a $1,000 fine for dumping would buy a city resident approximately five years of tags.

"You have to pay for it (garbage collection)," Frye said. "You have to."

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com

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