The Kentucky Division of Waste Management’s efforts to clean up illegal dumps are showing positive results.
This program uses the Kentucky Pride Fund to provide grants to counties to assist in cleaning up their open dumps. Counties are asked to provide 25 percent of the cleanup costs in most cases, either in matching funds or through in-kind services, and to coordinate the projects at a county level. This process allows for local control of each project, while harnessing a large, statewide funding source.
Since 2005 this program has funded the cleanup of 1,661 illegal open dumps at a cost of $10.7 million, which comes out to a bit more than $1,000 per dump. Discounting the first year of the program, during which participation was much lower than following years, Kentucky Pride funded cleanups have comprised over 65 percent of all illegal open dump cleanups across the state.
In addition to the programs funded by the Kentucky Pride Fund, there have been another 1,510 open dumps cleaned up since 2005. The graph also shows that there are fewer new dumps every year.
Open dumping can be a big environmental problem. Landfills are (usually) equipped to handle trash, and to protect groundwater and surface water from contamination. The trash is also covered, which reduces the long-term environmental effects. But none of these things happen when a dump springs up by the side of a rural road. Waste Management World has a convenient list of some of the environmental problems open dumps pose. They include:
- contamination of water may occur when leachate from the dump, via flow paths (on or under the surface) reaches groundwater or surface water.
- many contaminants (especially heavy metals) are trapped in the soils beneath dump sites risking long-term contamination and restricting the potential after-use of the site.
- landfilled organic waste may contribute to the greenhouse effect via emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. However, in the case of the open dump, the predominate gas emitted is carbon dioxide as aerobic conditions prevail.
- fauna in and around dump sites may be impacted, either by direct consumption of the solid waste, or by consumption of contaminated plants and/or animals, or as a result of leachate effects on groundwater and surface water.