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Michaux State Forest turns into dumping ground

Written by Sarah Davis | Apr 24, 2015 9:10 AM
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Michaux State Forest Ranger Todd Ottinger discovers a deer carcass that was recently dumped in the forest. (Sarah Davis -- Public Opinion)

FAYETTEVILLE >> With the thaw of spring arriving and the leaves starting to return on the trees, trash dump sites are starting to reappear in Michaux State Forest.

Stretching more than 85,000 acres, the forest has become people's favorite dumping ground for all sorts of garbage ranging from tires to couches and televisions, according to Forest Ranger Todd Ottinger.

"During the winter time we had a lot of tire dumpings," Ottinger said. "There must have been some commercial outfit that saw it as a better opportunity to dispose of their tires in the woods than to properly dispose of them."

Ottinger said maintenance workers spend thousands of hours cleaning up the trash and the cost to the commonwealth to properly dispose of the waste can cost thousands of dollars per year.

"We actually bring the trash that we pick up down to the Washington Township Transfer Station," he said.

Ottinger said officials are prosecuting some cases involving people they've found dumping trash in the forest. He said the problem areas include Irish Town Road, Thompson Hollow Road, Rattle Snake Run and Oak Road.

He said forest officials are trying to stay on top of the problem by increasing surveillance.

"We have patrol, we have surveillance cameras and we have investigation and there are several of us that do patrol including the maintenance staff," he said.

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Michaux State Forest Ranger Todd Ottinger spends part of his day patrolling the forest to watch out for people who try to illegally dump trash. (Sarah Davis -- Public Opinion)

In addition to taking away the beauty of the forest, Ottinger said improper trash disposal has other consequences.

"If there is medical waste that is disposed of it's harmful not only to the visitors that would visit the forest but there are people who walk their dogs here," he said. "Of course, litter can get washed into our streams and clog up our streams and further pollute everything."

Donna Kauffman, South Mountain, has been volunteering to pick up waste in the forest since 1999. She said her involvement stemmed for her need to do something about what she saw as an increasing problem.

"For one thing, I got sick of looking around and seeing trash everywhere and not being part of the solution," she said.

Ottinger added some people may use the forest as a dumping site to avoid the cost of taking their trash to a disposal facility, but the cost of properly disposing of waste is less than the fine they could face if they are caught dumping trash in the forest.

"Fines for dumping in the forest are between $50 and $300 for doing it yourself," he said. "But, if you are paid you are labeled a contractor and this is a misdemeanor and the fine for the first offense is between $500 and $5,000."


This article comes to us through a partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF.

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