Allegheny County has 1,404 tons of illegally dumped trash, according to a new survey from Allegheny CleanWays and the county board of health.
“Our contention is that illegal dumping and littering is land pollution,” Myrna Newman, the executive director of Allegheny CleanWays, said. “It’s a health issue, it’s certainly a mental health issue for people living in these communities, it’s an economic issue and it’s an environmental issue.”
The report defines illegal dump sites as "a significant mass of trash discarded unlawfully on public or private land and waterways."
The waste includes more than 27,000 tires, as well as construction and yard debris, household trash and old television sets. Cleanup costs are expected to top $842,000, and more than 75 percent of dump sites were less than 100 feet from a residence.
The survey did not include Pittsburgh, because the city was surveyed in 2009. Instead, it found 486 illegal dump sites spread out across 70 of the county’s 129 other municipalities.
Almost half of the sites were in just eight communities –with McKeesport, Penn Hills, Wilkinsburg and Braddock topping the list containing more than 30 each. With around 350 tons of trash and at least 10,000 tires, Kennedy Township's sites had the most waste of any municipality. A map featuring every site is available online.
The report also offered several ways to prevent illegal dumping, including supporting a state-wide tire manifest program, developing a local integrated waste management facility and promoting education on recycling and the environmental, health and economic consequences of litter and illegal dumping.
Allegheny County Health Department director Karen Hacker said that beyond cleanup, the focus is on educating municipalities.
“It really falls within their purview to be able to monitor this and to potentially enforce it,” Hacker said.
The board of health wants to “really talk with them about how best to prevent this from happening in the first place and what their options are,” she added.