Environment

Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet has awarded nearly $1 million to 21 counties to cleanup 121 illegal dumps across the state.

Owsley County will get $32,000 to clean up seven illegal dumps. Cody Lewis, the county’s Solid Waste Coordinator has seen old tires, furniture, clothes and even used diapers strewn around dumps. She said the money is  a “tremendous help” for cash-strapped counties like Owsley.

“I don’t think we would be able to afford to clean up these dumps if we didn’t have the extra money,” she said.

The cabinet has awarded the funds annually through the Illegal Open Dump Grant Program since 2006. Counties need only provide a 25 percent match to receive the grants.

The dumps can be smaller than the size of an average bedroom or spread over several miles, as is the case with the largest illegal dump in Owsley. Most of what’s found is typically household waste — any serious chemical contamination is referred to the state’s hazardous waste branch.

Lewis said garbage service costs $12 a month in Owsley County, but some people would rather dump their trash in the hills than pay it.

“It used to be a really bad issue before the county got the countywide garbage service,” she said. “Now we may get three or four [illegal dumps] a year.”

The funds will be used to help pay for supplies and labor, which can include inmate labor, she said.

Funding for the program comes from a $1.74 environmental fee on each ton of garbage dropped at city and county landfills.

Other counties receiving grants are Breathitt, Butler, Calloway, Estill, Green, Hart, Henderson, Johnson, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Lincoln, Logan, Magoffin, Marion, Mercer, Metcalfe, Pike, Warren and Wolfe.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.