By Dan Klepal
Enquirer staff writer
Motorists are dumping trash out their windows - everything from cigarette butts and auto parts to dirty diapers and containers of human waste - to the tune of 11,700 tons every year along Ohio's county roads, interstates, state and U.S. routes.
An Ohio Department of Transportation worker guides his spray-application truck along Interstate 75 near the Queensgate exit as he applies a chemical to kill foliage that often traps trash.
The Enquirer/MICHAEL E. KEATING
That's according to the first scientifically based study of roadside litter ever performed in Ohio.
The $100,000 study found that Hamilton County is behind only Franklin County in the number of bags of refuse collected last year. Cuyahoga County spent more money than Hamilton in picking up roadside trash, but collected 2,500 fewer bags of garbage.
"Basically we spend more time picking up trash than any other maintenance activity, besides snow and ice removal," said Lindsay Mendicino, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Transportation, which participated in the study with the state's Department of Natural Resources. "For every highway worker picking up someone else's garbage, we are not making road repairs."
ODOT Director Gordon Proctor said his department spends $2.3 million every year picking up roadside trash. And that doesn't include money spent by counties, cities and townships, or the huge number of volunteers who pick up waste.
COST TO COUNTIES
Ohio's litter study documents how much tax money was spent and how many bags of roadside litter were collected across the Buckeye State.
Franklin: $286,000, 65,000 bags
Cuyahoga: $210,000, 36,000 bags
Hamilton: $139,000, 38,500 bags
Warren: $58,000, 7,500 bags
Butler: $50,000, 6,600 bags
Clermont: $29,000, 6,000 bags
Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources
"Litter along the highways has become an increasingly expensive issue," he said.
The idea of the study is to understand how large the problem is, then gauge how well programs aimed at recycling and litter prevention actually work, said Patricia Raynak, an administrator of research for the Department of Natural Resources.
"We had no objective, scientifically derived knowledge of what our situation is," Raynak said. "We had never even tried to estimate the total amount of trash along or roadways.
"Now, we'll be able to measure (anti-littering) programs in two or three years after implementing them to see if they're having a real impact."
To get a valid study, local municipalities worked closely with the state agencies. Fifty-six sites in 31 counties were picked for the study. Those sites were cleaned last August, then local officials had to "protect" the sites against cleaning or mowing until fall, when the trash was picked up and weighed. The sites were "protected" again over the winter, and officials then cleaned the sites again this spring, weighing all the debris found.
The study said dumping of containers of urine and feces "appears to be a growing problem on Ohio's roadways and interchanges."
Jeff Aluotto, manager of the Hamilton County Solid Waste District, said the study couldn't have come at a better time. The county is in the process of rewriting its plan for dealing with issues of recycling and litter control.
"The issues of litter and illegal dumping are a concern in all communities," Aluotto said. "We've not been too involved with litter because we've been focusing so much on recycling. But that could very well change."
Collectors grin at smiley plates
Teacher pay starts lower in Ohio, Ky.
Rulings put courts in turmoil
Mason v. judge: Ouster debated
Four-legged recruit not drug dealers' best friend
IN THE TRISTATE
Objections from neighbors put kibosh on outdoor bar and grill
Ohio may do Brent Spence impact study
Finan quits as county's lobbyist after just 6 months
Green Twp. thwarts Lowe's
Litter pickup steals time, money from road repairs, study reports
Local news briefs
Shooting range input sought
Inattentive officer dies in cycle crash
Some corn lost to rain
Man executed for 1989 murder of woman, girl
Concealed-weapon law passes key test
State to conduct open-records seminars
Public safety briefs
Colerain Township upset by Rumpke's delay
Woodland Elementary administrator named
Once flush, now broke, city weighs tax increase
2 Butler County rape suspects skip court dates
Dayton focus group proves tough sell for both parties
Some did pass teaching test
Worker's death was electrocution
Bronson: Gay marriage debate stifled by more mush
Good Things Happening
Bill Bunis turned from tennis, became sociology professor
Frank Florence Jr. was Baptist minister
Budget tensions thaw as Fletcher, House leaders meet
Judge says he won't make Fletcher convene session
Staples gets first approval
Hayden criticized for China seminar
Obstacle course teaches teamwork
Covington hires ombudsman
Covington woman charged for false abduction report