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Survey Tallying Illegal Trash Sites in PA Completed

There are quite a few spots in the commonwealth that aren’t exactly beautiful, according to a study recently completed by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. 

The Illegal Dump Survey Program, which began in 2005 seeking to provide a snapshot of wayword trash around the state, identified 6,487 illegal dump sites containing an estimated 18,516 tons of trash across Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

KPB President Shannon Reiter said the organization is currently conducting a cost study to determine the true community costs “for cleanup and abatement of illegal dumping.” It's teaming with a consultant who is interviewing municipalities and counties.

Reiter said the study will be complete near the end of the year, but the organization estimates that cleanup costs about $800 per ton of trash when you consider the cost of the equipment and manpower needed to haul away the trash.

Results of a survey conducted over the course of eight years may seem a bit inadequate because dump sites have presumably both appeared and disappeared across the approximately 45,000 square miles that comprise Pennsylvania. But Reiter said an exact total wasn’t the aim of the project.

“What we were trying to do is really get a handle on the scope of the problem,” she said. “We have been cleaning up illegal dumpsites through our organization since the early 1990s. Cleanup is not how you stop illegal dumping. For us to develop a strategic plan to deal with illegal dumping in Pennsylvania, we needed to get a better handle on the problem.”

Now that the problem has been identified, Reiter said the solution is going to require “a multi-pronged approach.”

“People dump for different reasons and understanding those and learning where those pressure points for change are is part of the process,” she said, articulating that the organization has identified a number of factors including economic need, cultural and generational habits and convenience.

Enforcement of laws on the books, cleanup strategies and public access to places to dump are all essential to a plan for a cleaner Pennsylvania as well.

“Across the spectrum (of solutions), there’s a lot of things we need to look at and not just one or the other,” Reiter said. “There’s no silver bullet.”