WISE COUNTY, Va. - More than 1,000 illegal dumpsites have been mapped out in Southwest Virginia, with hundreds of them in Wise County.
It's an ongoing fight for Wise County litter control. Many of these dump sites have been found only a quarter of a mile from the convenience center where people can dump their trash.
"It's always been a problem," said Jim Stanley.
Stanley showed us an illegal dumpsite where left over asphalt, trash and debris was left for someone else to clean up. Stanley says the longer the trash sits, the more people add to it. "They'll come down, they'll see this and say, ;okay we can dump here,;" he said.
"Once you see something start to go down, everybody feels like it's ok; 'that's the acceptable place to dispose of my product,'" said Greg Cross, Litter Prevention and Recycling Coordinator.
Cross says it doesn't just happen there; he told us Southwest Virginia has mapped over 1,200 illegal dumpsites and 400 of them are in Wise County alone. "We're managing to clean up about 50 a year, but there's always new ones that spring up, sometimes in the same place," said Cross.
But Cross says there are some things they can't clean up, like asphalt, especially after it's hardened. "We have no way of getting that up, our department doesn't have the resources to handle that," said Cross.
He tells us if a person is caught, it is a class one misdemeanor; and the person can get up to a year in prison or a 5 thousand dollar fine. But many never are caught and continue to pollute the community. "Littering is the hardest crime to catch someone at," said Cross. Especially when the things that are left are hard to tie a name to.
Cross says they'll continue to press forward and clean the dumpsites, in hopes to eventually rid the county of them all. "Of the 430 we've located here in Wise County, we're probably down to 200-250. So we're moving headway," said Cross.
Cross says it's up to the community to report illegal dumpsites and then testify in court to help stop the problem.