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Citizens want county to get tough on trash

Highway to transfer station filled with debris

It happens almost every day. Someone's pickup truck goes down State Route 141, headed to the Klickitat County Transfer Station at BZ Corner. Along the way, paper cups, newspapers, tuna cans, maybe even a tire or two, blows or bounces out of the rig and lands on the side of the road.

Those living along the route that leads to the transfer station are tired of dealing with the mess, and want the county and Rabanco -- the company that owns the stations and operates the regional landfill at Rabanco -- to do something about it.

"I talked to (County Commissioner) Joan Frey personally," said Beth Yarnell, who lives along the highway between Husum and BZ Corner. "She just said it's the guy at the dump's responsibility to charge people more for having loose, uncovered loads. She just passed the buck. It's not that high a priority."

Connie Baugher, another SR 141 resident, said the responsibility for the problem falls largely on Rabanco.

"At the transfer station, they're supposed to charge more or make an issue over uncovered loads," Baugher said. "But we see trucks with tarps fastened up front, and they're going down the road like a big sail, with nothing holding down the back. It's certainly not a secured load."

Baugher said she has personally called Rabanco when she sees a lot of trash along the road, and they offer to send a crew down to pick up the debris.

"But that's really not the point," Baugher said. "We shouldn't have to look at it. Some of it is really nasty stuff, like old insulation falling apart. The nastiest messes are from old construction jobs. I think if we have a heftier fine and more ticketing, it would help a great deal."

County Commissioner Don Struck, whose district includes the BZ Corner Transfer Station, said there are three steps he takes when he gets complaints about trash along the highway leading to the transfer facility.

"Whenever I get those calls, I try to address it immediately," Struck said. "I call Rabanco and get on them about reminding people to cover their loads. I ask the Sheriff's Office to have some extra monitoring on that stretch. And I call the Adult Probation Department and ask them to send a crew up there to pick up trash, and ask that it be an emphasis area. But it's not long before it gets messy again."

Baugher added that she has been pleased with the response from Commissioner Struck.

"Don Struck has been great. He has returned my calls and indicated he's working on the problem," she explained.

Baugher said she believes the transfer stations have been a big help to the county overall.

"We see less stuff dumped in the woods now," she pointed out.

However, she added that she believes Rabanco ought to do more to address the litter problem.

"We need to enforce more and get Rabanco more involved," Baugher said.

Yarnell said there was no question that most of the trash comes from unsecured loads headed to the transfer station.

"You'll get a certain amount from people throwing it out, but there is not that much garbage from people throwing it out the window," she said. "We think more than half of the stuff is coming off uncovered loads."

Yarnell said there are ways to address the issue.

"There needs to be a deputy up there writing big tickets a couple days a week at different times," Yarnell explained. "The word gets around, and people will cover their loads."

Klickitat County Sheriff Chris Mace said he is keenly aware of the trash problem along the roadway.

"This is one of my pet peeves," Mace said. "It's pretty disgusting. It just takes a minute to cover a load, or if it blows out, to stop and go get it."

Mace said the deputies in his department won't hesitate to write tickets for littering, whether it be someone throwing something out the window or if it blows off a trash load.

"If a deputy is behind anyone and sees something come off, they would certainly act on it and I know they have written citations," Mace said. "We would certainly want to work with the Washington State Patrol, since it is a state highway, and I know they're active on it."

According to Mace, there are four state laws that directly relate to trash:

Failure to secure a load, maximum $101 fine;

Permitting the spilling of loaded material, maximum $194 fine;

Littering (less than one cubic foot of material), maximum $95 fine;

Littering (more than one cubic foot of material), maximum $475 fine.

The fines jump dramatically if flying debris or trash spilling off a vehicle causes a traffic accident.

Yarnell pointed out that the trash probably could also be having a harmful economic impact on the area.

"The White Salmon River is supposed to be wild and scenic and get all these tourists," she said. "And you see all this trash."

Baugher believes a strict ticketing campaign would be a relatively easy answer to the ongoing trash problem.

"I firmly believe heavy ticketing is the answer," she said. "If the State Patrol sent someone up on Saturday, which is the worst time, it would probably pay the guy's wages," Baugher said.

She added that her belief in the power of fines to halt the problem were proven during a visit to Hawaii.

"It was rather surprising how little trash we saw in Hawaii," Baugher explained. "But a $1,000 ticket impresses people."


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