Armstrong expresses concerns about dumping, littering problem

Posted February 15, 2017 at 10:03 am

It’s a problem that can be seen almost everywhere you go, but in Albany and Clinton County, it is almost an epidemic of sorts–littering and illegal dumping of trash and other debris.

Because of the problem having such a negative impact in various ways on the community, local officials are appealing to the general public to help curtail the problem–they are asking residents to take pride in our county by ceasing to litter and dump trash illegally.

County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong and Solid Waste Coordinator Rick Stearns recently discussed the litter and dumping problem the county faces on an ongoing basis and appealed to everyone in the community to take pride in their community and refrain from the practice to help make Clinton County a more attractive and clean area to live.

Judge Armstrong noted that the problem was bad when he first took office just over two years ago, and the situation hasn’t gotten any better and may be at its peak, especially with the spring season quickly approaching. Despite the efforts of the county employees to keep the roadways clean, the problems persist.

“There’s no end to it,” said Armstrong earlier this week. “We clean up an area and when we go back, it’s right back to the way it was,” he said.

The problem of litter and unsightly areas across the county is somewhat three-fold, as some locations in the county (including residential areas) are not cleaned up, some areas are used to dump trash illegally and the roadside litter problems can be seen county-wide–including areas that lead to primary tourist locations such as dock roads.

Stearns said a lot of the “illegal” dumping areas are on ‘dead end’ roads or near wooded areas where county workers have to clean up over and over.

In other situations, some residents “stock pile” their trash and make areas unattractive not only to local residents but visitors and tourists as well.

The issue with simple roadside littering in also bad. And although not blaming fast food restaurants, both Armstrong and Stearns noted that a lot of the debris in ditch lines and roadways come from people who eat at fast food locations and simple throw out their trash while driving down the road. Armstrong also noted that all fast food restaurants have trash cans outside of their businesses and people should use them to dispose of litter properly.

Stearns estimated that about 80 percent of the trash picked up comes from restaurant locations and/or beer and cola bottles and cans. Both agreed that about 90 percent of the roadside litter is from local residents, not from out-of-town people, or trash coming from solid waste haulers’ trucks.

Although there are laws on the books that make littering illegal, Stearns said it was extremely difficult to actually catch someone in the process and it is hard to prosecute.

As far as the unsightly residential locations, there are also laws on the books for that, including a health department regulation that does not allow any one location to have more than two week’s worth of trash gathered up at one location at any time.

The officials also discussed the need for mandatory garbage pick-up in the county, which may cut back some of the residential problems, and that is one suggestion that will be made when the county puts together its five-year state-mandated Solid Waste Collection plan later this spring.

Currently, only about 50 percent of residents in the county have their trash picked up by a solid waste hauler. The cost is only about $12 per month, while it costs $1 per trash bag to dispose of it at the local transfer station.

Solid Waste haulers will pick up to six trash bags per week at their set price, which averages out to about 50 cents per bag, Stearns noted. This compares to the $1 per bag if people haul off their own waste.

Judge Armstrong noted that the county employees, as well as jail inmates, work many hours per week to try and keep litter picked up along the county’s roadways. “It boils down to people not caring about their community,” he added. “We need to get people to listen or it’s not going to change. If we are going to clean up the county, it is up to the people,” the judge said.

Armstrong said the county was out cleaning up areas every day and also noted he had received complaints from not only some local residents about the litter and trash problems, but some comments about the situation from tourists as well.

Currently, Armstrong noted the city, county, state, with the help of the Litter Abatement program and PRIDE organization, were all being utilized in an effort to curb the problems and make the county look better.

Another concern the judge has is the upcoming spring season, when more wind and rainfall usually occurs and that will only make the problem of household debris worse, blowing onto roadways or other people’s property.

Officials also urge people who see littering or illegal dumping taking place to report it anonymously so violators can be held accountable.

Despite the many efforts by many people, agencies and organizations to keep the county as clean as possible, Armstrong reiterated that the “bottom line” in helping solve, or at least reduce, the problems of dumping and littering is for people to be aware of the problem.

“About all we can do sometimes is just try and appeal to the citizens’ responsibility and ask they respect their community enough to join the effort in keeping it clean,” Armstrong said.