Public Works officials: Illegal trash dumping costs government employees, taxpayers

By Eric PilgrimApril 2, 2024

FORT KNOX, Ky. — The recent rise in recurring trash dumping at Fort Knox has led Fort Knox leaders to explore new measures to stop it.

Public works officials say illegal trash dumping is costing government employees and taxpayers
Range Control officials sometimes find trash dumped in the range complex, forcing DPW contractors to take time away from their normal jobs to pick up the trash and dispose of it. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Arlin Kramer) VIEW ORIGINAL

The issue is two-fold, according to officials at the Directorate of Public Works. People living off post are apparently entering the installation to illegally dump trash in unauthorized locations. At the same time, Housing Division officials are facing similar problems with personnel living on post.

“What we’re talking about is either individual Soldiers or people from off post putting things in dumpsters or in areas where they should not,” said Jason Root, director of Fort Knox DPW. “We’ve had some instances where people just pile stuff by a dumpster. It can be anything from mattresses to old pieces of broken furniture.

“We’ve also found a bunch of trash out in the range complex areas; it happens periodically, and it’s very difficult to completely stop.”

Public works officials say illegal trash dumping is costing government employees and taxpayers
Illegal dumping spots can be near dumpsters, but sometimes they are just near roads for quick access. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Arlin Kramer) VIEW ORIGINAL

Root said a few years ago somebody discarded a boat in the range complex. Discarding bulk items is an ongoing issue, especially in the housing communities.

“The housing problem tends to be seasonal,” said Jay Schmidt, chief of Operations and Maintenance Division, DPW. “It fluctuates with the transfer of personnel in and out of housing and switching units.”

Housing Division officials have established services to help Soldiers and their Families preparing to move to another installation, or those living here who have bulk items they no longer want.

The policy allows for personnel to request the pickup of up to two bulk items per visit, up to twice a month. That equates to four bulk items that can be picked up and discarded each month without incurring expense.

The dumping problem in the cantonment areas and the range complex have posed unique challenges since they fall up under DPW. Schmidt said he has been forced to make his personnel pick up trash – work that takes away from the jobs they are paid to perform.

Public works officials say illegal trash dumping is costing government employees and taxpayers
Trash found in the range complex (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Arlin Kramer) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I have had the contractors do it for us,” said Schmidt. “It costs us money and takes money away from our roads, our roofs and HVAC systems. Somebody has to do it, and there’s not enough government employees to do it.”

Some of the measures being taken to stop illegal dumping include increased surveillance by law enforcement officers at the Directorate of Emergency Services.

“The military police are using different kinds of surveillance methods for some of our dumpster areas,” said Root, “and we’re just trying to make sure that people understand what the dumpsters are or are not for.”

The problem of bringing trash on post to dump at sites is what Root calls an almost completely different category.

“This shouldn’t need an explanation,” said Root.

Schmidt said they are beginning the process of ticketing those individuals caught dumping illegally.

“In years past, we had cameras, and we caught people doing it and made examples of them; that’s when it stopped,” said Schmidt. “That’s how it’s going to have to happen again is for people to actually get caught and pay out of pocket.”

And, in fact, some people have already been caught on cameras installed a couple of weeks ago by game wardens.

Schmidt said the fine for illegal dumping is no laughing matter. It amounts to the cost of renting a dumpster on the economy – approximately $550 plus $50 per ton of trash.

Public works officials say illegal trash dumping is costing government employees and taxpayers
Not only is the trash unsightly to the landscape but it’s also costing taxpayers money. Officials say they are beginning the process of passing that cost onto violators who get caught. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Arlin Kramer) VIEW ORIGINAL

Root said they are not trying to be the bad guys in this situation.

“The refuse problem is mine. It’s manpower I don’t want to expend – making people busy that should be fixing other things, and the added cost on top of that for their labor to dispose of the material,” said Root. “None of it is what we want, especially when there are legal methods in place to get rid of stuff and it’s just a matter of people thinking about it and planning a little bit better.”