Nearly 10 years after undertaking the massive project, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has released its final report on illegal dump sites throughout the state.
The latest and final round of surveys, performed mostly in the central and western portion of the state, identified an additional 243 sites, with an estimated 492.5 tons of trash.
With those counties completed, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has surveyed every county in the Commonwealth, locating 6,487 dumpsites estimated at 18,516.83 tons.
Last year, Chester County’s survey revealed 33 dump sites, with over 37 tons of illegally dumped garbage and detritus.
Beyond the obvious ecological impact of illegal dump sites, more direct threats to the populace can arise according to the report, particularly in urban areas.
The mosquito-borne West Nile Virus has been a primary concern; the dumps are also a source of physical injury for humans and animals due to broken glass, rusty metals and toxic substances.
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful President Shannon Reiter said that Chester is one of cleanest counties in the commonwealth with respect to illegal dumping sites, something she attributes to programs like the Chester County Solid Waste Authority.
Reiter said that Chester County ranks relatively low on the list, with only 33 sites noted as having 38 tones or less.
“These are obviously tonnage estimates,” Reiter said. “We’re making assumptions when we’re looking at these sites, and we can’t see what’s going on underneath the dump. But 33 sites isn’t very many … they’re small sites, and Chester has good systems in place.”
Reiter said that now that the sites are identified, the organization is focusing on prevention of future dumping rather than actively cleaning them up.
“We’ve been cleaning up since the early 90s, and it’s a never ending process,” she said. “We created these reports to focus on how we really address this problem.”
Reiter said they started the surveys in 2004, focusing on Washington and Allegheny Counties , before ramping up for a county-by-county survey in 2008.
“By then, we were doing 10 to 15 counties a year,” she said.
The reports, Reiter said, were creates as tools for municipalities on a local level, to identify and prevent illegal dumping when possible.
The reports are also tools for area civic and conservation organizations who wish to organize cleanups in their region, Reiter said.
She added that they will eventually create a final report on a state level, with recommendations to significantly reduce dumping.
In some cases, Reiter said, they are actively implementing surveillance programs on sites in several counties in the western portion of the state.
“We are looking at a whole range of solutions. We are moving forward, because this is more than just cleanups – it’s about addressing the problem systematically,” she said. “And we do expect to put out our final recommendations within a year.”
The organization is currently undergoing a cost analysis study to determine what counties are currently spending money on abatement, Reiter said, and are partnering with local law enforcement agencies by providing them with as much information as they can.
“The district justices are a key partner in this effort,” she said.
Reiter said the list is the first of its kind among the states and similar agencies.
“No other state has a list of their dump sites like this,” she said.
The illegal dump surveys can be downloaded at www.keeppabeautiful.org/IllegalDumpSurveys.aspx.