High waters cause trash to build up in lowlying areas
By Bobbie Poynter
People in low–lying areas of Knox County are becoming increasingly concerned about the huge amount of trash that the flood waters have brought down from the higher elevations. Steve Warren, Knox County Solid Waste Coordinator, has had his crews, as well as inmate work-release crews from the Bell County Forestry Camp, scouring the area, cleaning up as many accumulated trash areas as they can.
“We’re addressing as many citizens’ concerns as quickly as we can, but it’s a really big job trying to cover a whole county,” said Warren. “This year is particularly bad with all the flooding.”
Immediate attention is being paid to trash just off the roads or over embankments that the crews can safely reach. Sometimes, however, getting to a dumpsite is the real problem.
“If a location is too hard or too dangerous to take a crew, we have to take the time to rethink how and when the best time is to get to it,” said Warren. “We can get a crew down into most of these hollows, but we have to have the right equipment at the right time. And that’s just not always plausible. Especially, once we get down there and realize just how much there is to carry out.”
Warren said his crews have gone in to clear out on dumpsite only to find scores of lumber left over from a remodeling project, as well as the kitchen sink.
Stinking Creek resident John Kenningham has been working to get his area cleaned ever since his child picked up a mud-filled water bottle with a used syringe and needle in it.
“We’re the ones who have to pay for someone else’s negligence,” said Kenningham, who lives at the bottom the hollow. They’re not just throwing their trash over the hill. They’re tossing it into the streams where everything flows downhill and washes up on our property, and we’re the ones stuck having to clean up the mess.”
Kenningham is particularly concerned about an especially large dump on Roaring Fork in Stinking Creek. Warren says this is one site where he will have to apply for a grant through Kentucky Waste Management to get it cleaned out. Not only is the fairly old dump at the bottom of a steep ravine, but trash is strewn from the creek bed to halfway up the 20+ foot embankment.
“Accessibility and size of the job are the big determinates of whether we can go right in and begin cleaning or apply for a grant to get the job contracted out,” Warren explained. “We’ll bid that particular dump out because of its size and poor accessibility. Kentucky Waste Management will come down and inspect the site. Then bid it out for cleanup. After the work is done, the state will come in and inspect to see that it was done to their specifications. This process usually takes about three months or so.”
Copperheads and other snakes are another problem for the crews trying to clean up the trash. That is part of the reason the time of the year plays such a big part on when Waste Management begins cleanup in certain areas. Warren and his crews prefer to do most dump work in the fall when there are less leaves and a lot less snakes.
“We do litter control daily,” said Warren. ‘We’ve already clean up trash this spring along Possum Hollow and Ely Hollow roadsides and over the embankments. Trash has been strewn all over the area. We’re currently working in the Corbin-Gray area. After we’re finished here, we’ll be moving back into the Girdler area.”
Warren has already spoken with some residents in the higher elevations that may or may not have even realized their trash was floating downhill with the waterways. Since then he has continued to monitor certain areas to see if any more trash accumulates in those areas.
“Once you dump trash over the embankment or into the creek bed, you don’t know what happens to it,” said Warren. “We need to take pride in our city and county and try to keep our communities clean. There’s no need to be throwing trash into the streams and river, or even a fast food bag out the window, for that matter.
If anyone spots an illegal dump or an area where trash has accumulated, possibly due to high waters, please contact the Knox County Judge Executive’s office at 546-6192. Someone will return your call.