Tag Archives: litter

2 stretches of Highway 3 decried as litter-choked

The in basket: Laura Lewis writes, “What can be done to stop the ridiculous amount of garbage on Highway 3 to Belfair?  Who is responsible?  When and how is this happening? And why is it continuing? This has been a long-term problem.

“It is truly depressing and makes Kitsap look like a dump.  I have relatives visiting from out of state and driving around makes me feel like I live in a place that has zero pride, I am actually kind of embarrassed.  Can anything be done?”

It was just about a year ago that Susan Digby said essentially the same thing about the freeway between Bremerton and Silverdale.

“There is an astonishing amount of trash along the highway,”  she wrote then. “My concern is that when heavy rains come, this trash, now less trapped by vegetation because the brush has been cut, will make its way with storm water into the Sound.

The out basket: The highway leading to Belfair (I assume Laura means southbound) is frequented by all of Waste Management’s garbage trucks and innumerable vehicles hauling yard waste to the recycling companies along that route.

Waste Management works at keeping garbage from flying out of its trucks, but their success largely depends on how well its customers secure the plastic sacks and loose paper.

I’m not sure that stretch of Highway 3 is much worse than other local highways, or that it gets any better past Barney White Road, where all the loaded garbage trucks turn off.

As regards cleaning the mess up after it lands, I’m afraid that in the battle for the growing share of transportation dollars not spent on moving people, litter control has fallen behind storm water control and salmon habitat enhancement as a priority.

Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Olympic Region, calls Joe Citizen instrumental in keeping litter off the roadways in the first place.

“WSDOT’s capacity to clean up litter from state highways is diminishing with its shrinking resources,” she said. “We do work with other agencies, such as the Ecology Youth Corps and occasionally Department of Corrections inmate crews, to tackle the problem. (But) more and more, we must dedicate our maintenance resources to more pressing issues that are needed to preserve our highway infrastructure and keep traffic safely moving.

“We agree that litter is a blight on our highways. Your reader asked who is responsible. Anyone who does not secure his load, or who carelessly throws garbage out a car window, or who purposefully uses public right of way as a dumping site, is responsible. Laws and fines already exist to discourage such behavior, but we still see the results of that behavior every day.

“WSDOT does what it can to keep our highways clean. We regularly sweep highway shoulders, wash highway signs, clean drains of debris, and clear lanes of large objects. But to tackle the day-to-day litter problem, we need the public’s help, first, by not letting debris fly loose from their vehicles, and second, by actively participating in a solution by signing up with WSDOT’s “Adopt A Highway” program.

“Over 1,100 active volunteer Adopt A Highway groups are already registered with WSDOT, and I’m sure your reader could find a local group that could use another hand. To learn more about the Adopt A Highway program, I invite your reader to visit: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/operations/adoptahwy/ .


Reporting litterers and aggressive drivers

The in basket: Tracy Kendall and a fellow named Ben have asked where to call to report driver misbehavior of different kinds.

Tracy said, “I had a frustrating situation a few weeks back and have stewed about it since. I was driving along Sedgwick Road going east over SR16 when a driver in the car in front of me dropped her burning cigarette out her window.

“This was when we were on high burn ban alert and hadn’t had rain in more than 40 days!” She had her daughter write down the license plate number and vehicle description and called 911 to report the dangerous act.

“The CenCom dispatcher told me she wouldn’t take the information and that I was to report it to the Health Department!!” Tracy said.

“I told her that at one time I knew of a number that was something like 800LITTERS and that reporting to them resulted in a letter to the registered owner scolding them and warning of the dangers and legal ramifications.”

She tried that number and had no more success reporting what she had seen, she said.

“Is it really okay to throw out burning cigarettes from vehicles now? What if a fire did result? I was the only one with the responsible party’s information. FRUSTRATED!!!!!”

Ben asked, “How can I report an unsafe driver?  I have seen the same compact pickup travel at a high rate of speed (about 75 mph) on the shoulder lanes between Port Orchard and Gorst both mornings and evenings.  I have the tag number but not sure how to report it.”

The out basket: 9-1-1 is the proper place to call in either case, though Tracy got bad info from the call taker when she tried.

Maria Jameson-Owens, second in command at CenCom told me, “Our process is for call takers to enter details for all in-progress littering complaints. These should then be dispatched to local law enforcement. Callers should be offered the phone number for the Health Department when suspect information is available. Depending on the location of the event we sometimes transfer the caller to WSP for handling.

“If we were the agency to handle this event, it does not appear that we handled it per our policy. We will research internally.”

Handling littering complaints is one of the government functions that has take a beating from the financial shortfalls in state and local government. The State Department of Transportations phone number for them is no longer active.

Jan Brower of the Health District’s solid waste division says they will investigate complaints where there is some likelihood of identifying the dumper through information in what was dumped, but thrown out pop cans and cigarettes are the province of law enforcement.

Trooper Mark Hodgson of the WSP office here says there isn’t much likelihood of immediate contact with litterers or even aggressive drivers from such citizen reports. But they want to get the report so they can be on the lookout for the driver or the patrol the location, as with what Ben has seen. An officer may witness the offense being repeated.

Had there been a fire where Tracy saw the cigarette being thrown out, the report could have helped pinpoint blame.

Robert Calkins of the WSP in Olympia said they used to have a date base of aggressive driving complaints, but it’s no longer active.

He said citizens often report suspected drunken drivers, which do result in a response. In only 3 percent of the reports they receive do they find the driver still on the road, but about half of those they do find are, in fact, impaired, Robert said.

Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says calls to 9-1-1 about offenses on county roads are referred to them, and those on state highways are referred by CenCom to WSP dispatchers.


Unsolicited phone books aren’t litter


The in basket: Last winter, Chuck Hower of Harper was seeking help from the Kitsap County commissioners to rid the local roads of the unsolicited telephone directories that often are left on the ground near mailboxes and otherwise in public view, sometimes for weeks. He CC’d the e-mails to me.

“What is the difference,” he asked, “between someone throwing a beer can or other litter out of a car window to litter the roadway and the intentional littering that takes place with these directories? Why is such an obvious violation of the law allowed to continue, when it is easy to track down the culprit?”

The out basket: I asked Megan Warfield of the Department of Ecology about that agency’s position on this.

“The phone book question comes up quite often,” she said. “We have never gotten an official opinion from the Attorney General’s office on this – but technically, phone books do not meet the definition of litter.

She cited a couple of state laws that define litter.

“The operative words are ‘waste material’ and ‘solid waste,’ or more simply, garbage,” she said. 

“Usable items placed in the public right of way pose an interesting question. If the item is fully functional, is it waste material or solid waste?  Probably not in the way we commonly think of ‘garbage,’ but the fact that it was discarded is an issue.  Certainly, if the item is outside long enough and becomes weathered or decayed, it becomes ‘waste.’

“That phone book left on your sidewalk that you don’t really want isn’t technically litter because it can be used as it was intended – it’s not ‘waste.’ 

“The issue is further complicated by the fact that phone books are part of phone service that communications companies are required to provide. By (utilities)  regulations, your telephone service provider is required to provide you a directory each time it is updated. 

“As annoying as I find multiple phone books myself, I think it’s a stretch to say that because they are unrequested or unwanted makes them litter.  

“Limiting phone book distribution may been seen as a barrier to competition. I also think it would be logistically prohibitive to ask the phone company to distribute phone books only to those who request them.  They probably would get as many complaints from people who didn’t get them as from people getting them and not wanting them.  So I do not think ‘litter’ is the right way to get at the problem,” she concluded.

Kitsap Sheriff Steve Boyer says he got a good response from two directory companies he called last winter asking them to clean up the unused books, but he doesn’t know that the problem won’t recur with the next issues of the books.

He also observed that it mostly seemed to be a problem in the Manchester area of South Kitsap (Chuck lives in Harper). He also said the prosecutor’s office tells him the companies can’t be prosecuted for littering, presumably due to the factors Megan discussed.

She also suggested the offended residents complain to the publishing companies if they can find the contact information.

“I know enforcement agencies are not going to pursue this as a littering violation,” she concluded. “I know it’s a waste of paper, but at a minimum, I encourage people to recycle the unwanted directories. Information on recycling is available by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.”



Musings on a motor trip in S.C., Ga. and Fla.

The Road Warrior and his wife, the Judybaker, spent two weeks driving a rental car around eastern South Carolina, Georgia and Florida recently. Here are some musings on the experience:

– I was told it was flat, and that’s for sure. When roads are built in the Northwest, designers try to balance the dirt removed in cuts through hills with that needed to fill the valleys, limiting the amount of dirt that has to be hauled and minimizing elevation changes for drivers. I don’t think I saw a single highway cut in any of the three Southern states. They all had to be built up with the shoulders sloping gently downward. I wondered where they got the dirt.

– Those freeways are unique in my experience. You can drive for miles without seeing signs of civilization, not counting the freeway itself. The shoulders are bordered in thickets of palm, long-leaf pines and other vegetation that kept me from seeing whether there were houses and businesses behind them or just more of the ubiquitous marshes that cover most of the coast. Interchanges were often 10 miles or so apart.

– The medians and shoulders were among the most litter-free I’ve ever seen, especially along I-95 in Georgia. And the pavement and medians were wide and well kept.

– I saw an interesting wrinkle on traffic signals at one (and just one) spot along Highway 170 south of Beaufort, S.C. The speed limit was 50 mph, and the red light had a white ring around it that blinked, calling attention to the light. Seemed like a good idea for all stop signals.

– South Carolina’s low, marshy topography requires lots of bridges and it is far enough north that they can have freezing weather in the winter. I puzzled for a while over signs reading “Bridge Ices Before Roadway,” wondering what bridge ices are and why they would be put before the roadway. I realized shortly that it’s just their way of saying “Watch for Ice” on an upcoming bridge.

– People tend to notice cars of the same model as the one’s they own or are driving, so we were predisposed to see Priuses and Mazda 3s, which we own, and PT Cruisers, one of which Dollar rental cars provided us. It was silver colored.
The Prius also is much in vogue, with gas prices jumping so steeply. They are increasingly common in Kitsap County.
I was in Beaufort, home of the Parris Island Marine recruit center, for three days before I saw a Prius there, and saw only six in seven days there. I didn’t spot a single Prius in four days in Orlando, and only one in three days on the Space Coast around Titusville and Cocoa Beach, Fla.
I wonder if there’s some cultural thing in the South that keeps the Prius from selling.
Mazda 3s were commonplace, and I came to suspect silver PT Cruisers are the state car of Florida, or at least are revered in Orlando. They were all over the place. I also had never noticed how many there around here until I got back. Yet, Chrysler will stop making it after 2009, according to Wikpedia, calling it a “now slow-selling vehicle.”

– After four days in Orlando, I was still completely turned around about which direction to go to get places. It began with Interstate 4 being designated an east-west highway even though it runs north-south (like Highway 16 here).
Our motel was near Universal Orlando. I wonder if any of you readers have ever driven around Orlando and found it similarly confusing.