RUSSELL COUNTY, Va. - Southwest Virginia counties continue to wage war against illegal dump sites.
It's been an eight-year battle that's still leaving the beauty of the mountains scoured with garbage. News 5 caught up with a group Wednesday working to clean up the mess one illegal dump at a time.
A mountain of garbage hides what should be a mountain of beauty in Russell County, Virginia. Property owner Elmer Johnson told us people have been using his land as their personal dump for at least a decade. "It don't look pretty. I can tell you that," said Johnson.
That illegal dump site is just one of hundreds across Southwest Virginia. "In Buchanan, Dickenson, and Russell we've identified over 798 [illegal dumps]," said Toby Edwards, director of Waste Services for the Cumberland Plateau Regional Waste Management Authority.
Those three counties have joined forces by working to clean up these dumps one by one.
With more than 30 tons of trash at the Russell clean-up site alone, there's no telling what you'll find when you encounter an illegal dump. "We have found everything from cars to boats, to transformers with PCBs in them," said Edwards.
We're told one of the major problems at dump sites is tires. Crews will typically gather five to six tons of tires at a dump site. We learned there's a health issue, because stagnant water will sit inside and can later breed mosquitoes.
Trash at the Russell clean-up site can even contaminate the creek nearby that flows into the Clinch River.
Russell County sheriff's officials told us as volunteers, crews, and inmates spent hours getting rid of the mess, deputies continue to send a message that any kind of littering will not be tolerated in hopes it's more than trash that meets the eye in Southwest Virginia. "Illegal dumping can be a class one misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail [or] $2,500 fine," said Major Bill Watson.
In the past eight years, we're told Tri-County Illegal Dump clean-up crews have cleaned up almost 300 illegal dump sites in Southwest, Virginia.
We also learned you can legally get rid of your trash at a convenience site, transfer station, or with door-to-door pick-up.