School district inundated with illegal dumping
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:31 AM
"Mike Wilkinson has been a custodian for 27 years and when he comes to trash, he knows his stuff. He knows when someone has been illegally dumping garbage in the Silverdale Elementary trash bin.Ninety-nine percent of the bags in here are a heavy plastic. They aren't the kind you buy in a grocery store, you can't see through them, Wilkinson said. I've been here long enough to know if it comes from a neighbor.This year, it's been coming from a neighbor more often.Wilkinson and other custodians have to deal with the ugly side of what is becoming an expensive and unhealthy trend in the Central Kitsap School District - illegal dumping of garbage on school grounds.There have been 17 reported cases since school started in September, according to Sara Hoover Miller, environmental resources and safety coordinator for the Central Kitsap School District. It is costing schools plenty - an estimated $5,000 a year just for custodial time and for purchase an maintenance of new locks installed on trash receptacles.And that doesn't include the increased trash disposal charges.BremAir Disposal charges $10.22 per yard of garbage, plus tax, for over-filled trash bins or trash sitting outside receptacles. Hoover Miller said the average illegal dump yields two to three yards of overload garbage - about $30.66 per month. An extra pick up for a six-yard trash bin totals $38.33.It costs individual schools, too, because of a waste-elimination disposal project implemented by the district.Each school is given a solid-waste disposal allowance based on enrollment and average volume of garbage produced. Elementary schools are given 92 cents per student per month for solid waste disposal; junior highs get $1.01 per student per month, and high schools get $1.10. As students get older they eat more, including more trash-producing snacks, and there is a commensurate raise in pick-up cost, according to Hoover Miller. As an incentive to reduce waste through recycling and pre-recycling - or not creating waste in the first place - schools are given refunds each year for producing less garbage than expected.Those savings add up to real money. In the 1999-2000 school year, Central Kitsap High School earned $3,058 for waste reduction, Cougar Valley Elementary earned $1,215 and Fairview Junior High earned $1,618. Only one school, Clear Creek Elementary, spent more on waste disposal than expected - $247.Schools use the refunds to purchase recycling boxes, hire environmental speakers or throw parties for students who help with the recycling program. Now the problem is when people illegally dump, we have to do another pick-up and it comes out of the schools' profit, Hoover Miller said.Hoover Miller has experimented with ways to combat the problem. All CKSD trash receptacles now contain locks, but BremAir charges a $5 fee to unlock them, and it doesn't stop people from leaving items on the ground near the receptacle - or worse, dumping in green areas surrounding the school.She also tries to contact the litter bug. When trash is dumped, a custodian must rifle through it in search of an item with an address. But digging though other people's trash is not only disgusting, it's dangerous.You don't know what's in there - you just pray you don't hit a syringe. I have found them in the trash before, Wilkinson said.If three pieces of Identification are found in the rubbish, the district has the option of reporting the incident to the Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District, which can order a cleanup or issue a $475 fine. But most often, the district takes it own action.When an address is found, a strongly-worded but informative warning letter is mailed to the alleged litter bug. Of the 17 cases reported this year, only four letters where mailed and only one person responded - a mother whose son had illegally dumped.Hoover Miller said the problem is worst at Silverdale Elementary, because of its proximity to the Silverdale waste transfer station, and in areas with a high percentage of rental units, like Woodlands Elementary. But it happens everywhere.A number of factor are likely at play in the recent surge in dumpings, including higher prices and reduced hours at the waste transfer station, Hoover Miller said. She added that since locks have installed, there have been more cases of dumping large items like tires, appliances and mattresses.These are things I have a lot of trouble getting rid of, Hoover Miller said. "