ASHEBORO — One thing Jay Dale can be certain of is that at least once or twice a week his office will get a call about an illegal dumping incident in the county.
Dale is the director of the Randolph County Planning and Zoning Department.
Dale also knows his department is coming up on a seasonal spike in dumping.
“We routinely see an increase in the number of calls about illegal dumps just after the Christmas holidays,” he said.
Dale said he suspects this happens as residents open up the big package under the Christmas tree and discover a new television or major appliance. Then it’s in with the new and out with the old. Except some people aren’t sure of where to take their old property or maybe they are afraid of having to pay a fee to carry the equipment away to the county landfill. Or maybe they just don’t care that they are creating a problem for someone else to clean up.
When the calls come in, Dale sends out one or both of his code enforcement officers to investigate. Usually, he said, it’s a dump of household garbage. Most often it is just a bag or two; sometimes it’s more.
No area in the county is more prone to the problem than any other, he said.
Occasionally, Dale reaches out to Paxton Arthurs, Randolph County Public Works Department director, for help in picking up large piles of garbage. When the illegal activity happens on a major state highway, the N.C. Department of Transportation gets involved.
“It’s not unusual for me to see incidents of trash dumped along U.S. 64 West,” Arthurs said.
What Arthurs sees most often is construction debris. When it isn’t dumped along a state road, it is found thrown out at the end of one of the county’s many dirt roads, Arthurs said. He said his office usually handles at least one large incident a year.
Illegal dumping is regulated in North Carolina by the state Department of Environmental Quality. According to the department’s website, the activity is done by construction, demolition and land clearing contractors, automobile repair operations, tire shops, scrap collectors, waste-hauling contractors, all sorts of commercial operators and area residents.
The reasons vary from laziness to financial incentive. Many are trying to get out of paying landfill fees.
State officials point out that illegal dumping carries serious fines and can be a Class I felony crime.
If the amount discarded is less than 15 pounds and not commercial waste, a first offense is punishable by fines of $250-$1,000 and a requirement that the offender perform community service — preferably picking up trash, if at all possible.
Fines and community service requirements go up from there.
The court can also require the offender to reimburse the injured property owner at least $200 but up to three times the amount of the costs of the damage done. The violator can also incur points on his or her license if a vehicle was involved in transporting the material. (For more information about North Carolina law concerning illegal dumping, see General Statutes Chapter 14-144 Littering, or visit https://deq.nc.gov/media/2970/download).
This depends on whether or not county or state officials can identify the person responsible for the crime. Dale said his code enforcement officers typically figure out where the debris comes from in seven out of 10 cases.
“You’d be surprised at the number of times people have left a piece of mail or an invoice or some other identifying piece of information in the trash they dump,” he said.
Most of the time, if the code enforcement officer can identify the person who has committed the offense, that person agrees to clean up the debris. Other times, if it’s just one or two bags of garbage, Dale said his officers simply collect and dispose of the trash. He said it is a rare case that his office has to issue fines against the person.
“I would estimate that we have had to issue one fine for each 100 cases we handle,” he said.
While illegal dumping is a criminal offense, the planning office does not typically initiate a report to the Randolph County Sheriff's Department, Dale said. That is up to the property owner.
Dale said much of the problem with illegal dumping could be avoided if people would just carry their debris to any one of county’s six convenience sites. He reminds citizens that residents of Randolph County can dispose of most household waste at any of the county’s convenience sites at no charge.
The solid waste convenience site at 1254 County Land Road in Randleman is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The site takes household waste, recyclables, furniture, batteries, motor oil/antifreeze, tires and appliances. Residents can also dispose of electronics there.
Other convenience sites around the county are open Monday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. They include
— Coleridge, 4717 Holly Springs Road, Coleridge, 336-879-2933.
— Farmer, 5488 N.C. 49 South, Asheboro, 336-857-3002.
— Liberty, 428 W. Brower Ave, Liberty, 336-622-1067.
— Randleman, 115 Depot St., Randleman, 336-498-0429.
— Trinity, 6117 Kennedy Road, Trinity, 336-434-0267.
Anyone using the sites may be asked to show a form of ID to prove they live in the county. Trips to the convenience site are limited to one per day per resident and to a maximum of 10 60-gallon bags per visit. For bulky items too large for a 60-gallon bag, the limit is two items per day.
The convenience sites do not accept construction debris or yard waste or what is known in the industry as C&D waste. This can be disposed of at the Great Oaks Landfill, 3597 Old Cedar Falls Road, Randleman (336-628-6026); Gold Hill, 385 Gold Hill Road, Asheboro (336-629-7175) or one of the smaller legal landfills in the area. There is a charge for disposal based on weight.
What can you do if you are the victim of an illegal dumping incident?
The first thing to do is to call the county planning and zoning office at 336-318-6561 and ask to speak to code enforcement officer Clint McNeill. McNeill and/or David Harris will come to the site to begin an investigation.
If a suspect can be determined that person, will be asked to clean the debris up or face a fine of up to $500 per day, according to Jay Dale, Randolph County planning and zoning director. If the county is unable to find the person responsible for the offense, Dale said his office will arrange to have the material cleaned up at no charge to the property owner.
To report an offense to the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, call 336-318-6699 during normal business hours and ask to speak with a detective.