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The next time you decide to visit your favorite fast-food drive-thru, that $1 burger may cost you more than $1. If you toss that burger wrapper out the window of your car in Washington County, that hamburger could cost you $500, or even jail time.
“We’re spending about $22,000 a year in this county to keep the roads clean,” said Washington County Solid Waste Coordinator George Ann Palmer. “It seems like when they’re done eating their fast food, they just throw the wrappers, cups, cans or bottles out the window. For somebody to come in here, or for a resident, to just arbitrarily throw stuff out the window, they’re just throwing their tax dollars away. We have to find a way to educate people and tell them that there is an easier way. They can put a plastic bag or box in their car and throw it in the garbage when you’re done. It’s a very simple thing to do. All these litterers are doing is destroying our environment, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Although the county has a litter abatement program where non-profit groups earn grant money from the county to clean up roadsides, and county schools have a recycling program in place, Palmer said the time has come for the county to get aggressive about litter offenders.
Last week, a summons was issued to Freddie Mitchell of Danville. Mitchell is charged with criminal littering, which according to KRS 433.753, is a Class A misdemeanor which carries the penalties of a $500 fine, one year in jail or both.
“He was seen by a resident of Washington County, who observed him pulling his car off to the side of the road and cleaning his car out,” said Palmer. “After he was through, the witness took his license plate number and took a look at the site, which was the intersection of Berry Mill Road and Beechland Road. We’re lucky that we have a citizen who cares about keeping the land clean and they reported the offense.”
The county isn’t just cracking down on small litter. Illegal dumps in the county have also been targeted. Palmer said one illegal dumper was prosecuted earlier this year and was fined $20,000.
“We’re fortunate in Washington County that most of the landowners here take pride in their land,” Palmer added. “We have just one dump in the area of Cardwell-Tablow Road where we’re in the process of getting a state grant to get that dump cleaned up after the first of the year.”
Palmer said citizens who witness littering may report it anonymously without fear of having their identities revealed.
“People are hesitant to report litterers in fear that their identity will be made known, not only to the litterer, but to the general public, but that is not the case,” she said. “We keep the names of the reporters confidential. We would like to know who has been dumping trash in our county. It’s time to make an example of them. Washington County is a certified clean county. If we can get these litterers to stop, we can be even cleaner.”