Illegal litter causing headaches in Chilton County

Trash seen behind the trees off a county road (

Libby Ratliff is the Litter Agent for Chilton County. The cab of her truck is filled with trash bags and signs that tell people littering incurs a $500 fine. Her job is to keep the right-of-ways in the county free of any litter, as well as field calls from the public about litter that needs to be picked up. She said one person picking up trash on the side of the road can fill up about 18 to 20 large bags with the trash that covers just one mile.

Ratliff says she has gotten calls to pick up couches, tires, dogs, pigs and much more.

With no mandatory garbage pickup in the county, Ratliff says residents have two options: hiring one of the independent trash haulers in the county or taking the trash to the solid waste authority in Thorsby. Ratliff said if the haulers are not paid, they will not pick up the trash. When that happens, Ratliff said people take matters into their own hands by dumping trash in places like right-of-ways, waterways and under bridges in the county.

"It is terrible," county resident Gail Brooks said. "I can pick up anywhere from three to six of the 55 gallon contractor trash bags full of trash each time. Anything from beer cans, to recently, someone dumped an entire bag of adult diapers in my creek. I had to get down there and fish every bit of it out."

There are cases in which Ratliff has had to call on the county's road department for pickup assistance.

"We are a small department trying to maintain [many] miles of road and doing it with a very small group of people." County Engineer Tony Wearren said. "When we have to divert anybody, away from their primary task, it becomes an inconvenience. It is a process that really does not allow us to catch back-up. If we lose a day being diverted to something else, that day is gone. So, now we are a day further behind in what we are trying to accomplish and the schedule we are trying to stay on. Any day that we lose becomes a problem that compounds in the end."

Wearren said the road department has seen some pipe culverts plug up with garbage, leading to the erosion of grounds and roadway around it.

Ratliff said at one point during her 14 years with the county, there were 97 illegal dumps scattered around the county. She said that number is now down to 13. She said keeping the county clean depends on one group.

"We depend on the public to help with this problem," Ratliff said. "Hopefully, if somebody comes out, picks up and cleans up an area, it will go down to the next person and saying 'I threw out trash myself. I do not need to do that.' You depend on everybody to work together to take pride in their area."

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