Law and justice Council

Recent Media
Story Published: Apr 14, 2009 at 8:59 PM PDT

By Joel Moreno

SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash. -- A litter crew is trying to make a clean sweep of the trash troubles across the county.

Instead of just collecting the garbage, workers are sifting for clues into the identity of the illegal dumpers.

From stacks of tires to guns, to methamphetamine, the litter crews have come across just about everything on the sides of the county's more isolated roads.

On average, the crews collect 10 tons of trash every month. A truckload adds up to about a ton.

"We find like addresses and names to who's dumping stuff out here," said John Eriksen, who said he's not too pleased with illegal dumpers. "Because I'm the one who's got to clean it up."

Litter crew supervisor Laura Kahn uses out-of-custody inmates to do the work. Kahn says addresses listed on old doctor bills and bank statements point to as many as a half-dozen suspected illegal dumpers just along Bassett Road.

"What's so bad about this is if it starts, then other people dump here, too," she said.

But the cleanup program has proven successful. When the program first began, crews found enough litter on county roads to fill a trash bag every five feet. Now, they fill up a trash bag every 50 feet.

Still, Kahn says her work is never done. Skagit County still receives about 200 complaints per years.

"I scope out areas all the time. I even make my husband go for drives on weekends," she said.

Fines for illegal dumping range from $500 for a small dump to up to a $1,000 for larger amounts of trash.