05/29/06 — Cleanup group faults unsecured loads

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Cleanup group faults unsecured loads

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 29, 2006 1:50 PM

A group of Wayne County residents dedicated to keeping the county free of trash and debris says items thrown from cars might be a problem, but not the biggest challenge to keeping the county clean.

Keep Wayne County Beautiful volunteers say unsecured loads provide more trash -- and more danger -- on the county's roadways.

Whether it is construction material or tree limbs, debris from unsecured loads equals about 50 percent of the litter along the state's roadways, according to a North Carolina Department of Transportation study. In 2003, NCDOT workers made about 340 stops per month to collect debris from the roadways.

Keep Wayne County Beautiful director Simonne Cato said once the debris drops out of the back of a truck, it can become a weapon on the highway. She knows, because it has happened to her. She said she was driving in the left lane going northbound on I-85 when her car ran over a piece of metal.

"You never forget when you hear the blow out and lose control," Mrs. Cato said.

The piece of metal blew out her left front tire, making the highway's concrete barrier the only way she could control her car, Mrs. Cato said. She was not injured in the accident, but it could have been worse.

In February 2005, Betty Rose Johnston of Pikeville was driving on Antioch Road when she swerved her vehicle to avoid a piece of carpet that fell from a truck. Her car overturned, causing personal injury and damages of about $2,800 to her car, Mrs. Cato said.

This is why Mrs. Cato said she believes people should begin to take personal responsibility for the trash they generate along the highways.

"I'm more upset about the danger of it than the littering aspect," Mrs. Cato said.

Personal responsibility begins in the home and at businesses, she added.

"There are plenty of examples -- a store owner lets trash overflow from the dumpsters, trash stacking up on loading docks, the back of pickup trucks," Mrs. Cato said.

If the trash remains in the back of the truck or is unsecured in the back of a commercial truck, she said it has a better chance of falling out.

According to the General Statutes, if the littered item is less than 15 pounds, it is a first offense penalty of one point of the driver's license including up to a possible 24 hours of community service and up to a $1,000 fine.

If the waste is up to 500 pounds, dropping it on a highway is still considered a misdemeanor, but the penalties increase to a $2,000 fine and 24 hours of community service. Anything more than 500 pounds is considered a felony and the driver would be held responsible for any cleanup and civil damages.

Mrs. Cato said drivers can avoid the fines by taking trash to any of the county's landfills.

"At $23 -- with such low tipping fees, it's a mystery to me why people don't take their trash there," she said.

The local landfills accept nearly any kind of waste and a few have begun to accept used oil filters. Wayne County Solid Waste Director Lloyd Cook said six county landfills have begun recycling oil filters including the N.C. 111 convenience center and sites in Pikeville, Patetown, Rosewood, Dudley and off Mitchell Road.

Residents can also do their part by contacting local law enforcement agencies when they see unsecured loads on the back of trucks or people throwing trash out of moving vehicles.

"Doing something is better than doing nothing," Mrs. Cato said.