County continues battle against illegal dumping on Peninsula

<I>CHRIS NIELSEN photo</I><BR>As a way to catch those dumping illegally, Pacific County DCD Code Enforcement Officer Bob Hazen will go through trash to find identifying items such as old mail. This pile was found on Feb. 14 along an old logging road between Ilwaco and Chinook.

Bag containing over 100 used hypodermic needles found by Island Lake near Birch StreetPENINSULA - According to Pacific County Department of Community Development (DCD) Code Enforcement Officer Bob Hazen, the county is getting a leg up on illegal dumping, but the battle is far from over.

Just last week Hazen discovered a pile of garbage left in a recreational area alongside Island Lake. But the real surprise was the discovery of more than 100 used hypodermic needles inside one of the bags.

The estimated 10 bags of trash were found in a recreational area that is approximately one mile north of Cranberry Road, and is commonly used for picnics. It also includes a boat launch for small boats and canoes.

"This is pretty serious in terms of a health hazard standpoint," said Hazen. "People have their families down here. A kid could be running around here with bare feet. It is a pretty scary thought."

According to Hazen, the 100-plus used needles could be from somebody who has diabetes, but he said they warrant being treated as potentially from an illegal drug user. Closer inspection of the site by Hazen revealed remains of hypodermic needles that were previously dumped in the very same area, which prompted him to conclude it has been used for disposal of needles in the past.

"We will make sure the needles found recently are disposed of properly," DCD Director Mike DeSimone said.

Also found at the site were several bags containing rotting remains of a deer carcass, as well as bags of old clothes, cans, bottles and other household garbage. According to Hazen, he discovered the bags during a follow-up inspection of the area, where bags of household trash were found in mid-December.

Also found near the bags of trash was an Oregonian newspaper dispensing box, which had been broken open in order to obtain coins inside. It was determined to be one of several boxes stolen from Peninsula locations late last year. According to the Pacific County Sheriff's Office, one of the boxes was stolen from in front of a business in Seaview and the other from the Klipsan Beach area.

During an inspection of several old logging roads in the Bear River area between Ilwaco and Chinook on Monday, Feb. 14, Hazen found several large piles of household trash, as well as old car parts and discarded construction debris. Inside several bags of trash old hypodermic needles were found here as well. Also found was an old barrel with an unidentified chemical substance inside. Hazen said he just inspected this area several weeks ago and said much of what he found on Feb. 14 was recently dumped.

According to Hazen, dumping along old logging roads is not uncommon, and has been a problem for the county for decades. He said when trash is found dumped along these roads, part of the process is determining the property's owner. He said much of this property still belongs to timber companies. He said DCD will be contacting the property owners where the trash was found on Feb. 14 to notify them that it needs to be cleaned up.

"It is the responsibility of the property owner to clean up this type of dumping, since it is on private property," said Hazen.

One thing Hazen pointed out is that in some areas of the county some timber companies have erected gates to block access to these roads as a measure to prevent further illegal dumping. But he said these gates in turn obstruct the general public from state lands that could be used for recreational purposes. According to Hazen, "A lot of this property is state owned and a lot of timber companies will permit some limited access during hunting season."

Another ripple effect from more gates to logging roads is that they can cause people to seek other areas to dump illegally, such as public recreation areas and beach approaches. He said these areas are favorites since they typically can be accessed at night without anyone seeing the activity.

Hazen said the issue of illegal dumping of household garbage is a problem not only on the Peninsula, but across much of Pacific County. And as far as solid waste complaint calls to DCD are concerned, they are more often than not the most frequent. But unless someone is seen doing the dumping, the only way DCD has to catch the offender is to go through the bags of trash and find old mail or bills which could have identifying information on them such as names, addresses and phone numbers.

"Whenever we have a name and address we will try to track those individuals down and will either call, if we find a phone number, or send them a letter and explain the violation and what the penalty fees are," Hazen said.

For a Class I violation, such as illegal dumping of household garbage or garbage in general, it is a minimum $533 fine.

A Class II violation would be an obvious health hazard, and an incident such as the recent dumping of used hypodermic needles could fall into this class, said Hazen. He said he will be discussing the situation with the Pacific County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Hazen said it usually takes two months before going to court from the time a citation for illegal dumping is issued.

"When people dump illegally this is a drain on the rest of the public, since county staff needs to go out and make sure it gets cleaned up and then follow up with enforcement," said Hazen.

To report illegal dumping in Pacific County, contact Hazen at 642-9382.

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