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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sonoma County - Don't Trash the 'Hood!

How often do you see mattresses, beer cans and plastic bags of garbage thrown on the side of the road or, worse yet, in the creeks in your neighborhood? There's something we can do about it!

Don’t Trash the ‘Hood
By Bob Burke

How often do you see mattresses, beer cans and plastic bags of garbage thrown on the side of the road or, worse yet, in the creeks in your neighborhood? Probably often. And, if you’re like me, such a sight causes depressed feelings about the state of the human condition. And you’ve probably felt helpless to do much about it.

Well, things have recently improved in terms of what you can do about this problem. There is a new website you can report illegal dumping. It’s user-friendly, and I have used it with great results.

Four Sonoma County agencies got together and obtained a grant from the State Integrated Waste Management Board to establish a program to reduce and hopefully eliminate illegal dumping in the County. The agencies are the Environmental Health Division of the Department of Health Services, and the Department of Transportation and Public Works, Roads and Integrated Waste. In addition, the County’s Information Services Department and the Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Unit (COPPS) of the Sheriff’s Department complete the line-up of agencies. As part of the new program, the agencies have created this web site as a means of identifying illegally dumped trash so it can be collected before it does greater harm to our environment. Because collection of dumped trash is not a long-term solution to the problem, the program includes education and public outreach intended to reduce illegal dumping.

It is regrettable that our tax dollars have to be used for this purpose but, given the scope of the problem, I believe it is an appropriate use of our tax dollars being put to good use. But to go around cleaning up after violators is not a long-term solution. The only sustainable solution is to make illegal dumping socially unacceptable. The best way to reach this goal is for each of us to let our friends and acquaintances know that roadside dumping is harmful and incompatible with the rules of society.

While we strive toward that goal, I believe we should clean up trash that has found its way, willfully or inadvertently, onto our roads, into our creeks and across our countyside. Until we reach that goal we should do our best to clean up after those whose social consciousness is deficient. Many watershed councils, schools and other civic-minded organizations organize clean-up efforts regularly. The Atascadero / Green Valley Watershed Council (AGVWC), for which I volunteer, recently completed its annual clean-up of the creeks and roads in Graton and along Green Valley Road between the Atascadero and Bones Road. If you’d like to be a part of future AGVWC clean-up projects, visit

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