To stop illegal dumping, enforce laws and lower costs

April 20, 2017

Trash. Garbage. Refuse.

Whatever it is, it's a problem in Sussex.

Officials say they got a complaint about a sprawling 19-acre tract near Millville, some of it heaped with trash and construction debris. Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials charged a Frankford man with operating a dump without a license; his case goes to court April 24.

In the meantime, Sussex officials say they are waiting for DNREC to report on as many as 10 illegal dump sites where they know there's a trash problem. County officials say it's up to DNREC to issue charges, but barring hazardous wastes or other environmental problems, it's up to the county to get the sites cleaned up.

Enforcement in Sussex County is complaint driven – until county officials receive a complaint, they do not take action. Dump sites are well off the road, unseen by anyone who is not planning to dump trash; those who use the site are not likely to complain, and those who don't may not know it's there.

This must change. Constables should be empowered and required to immediately report dumps when they become aware of them.

Still, when an illegal dump covers acres, it's an obvious sign of a larger problem. Why are so many people dumping illegally?

For anyone who has taken trash to the landfill recently, the answer is simple: It is expensive to get rid of trash. So expensive, people find closer, cheaper places to get rid of refuse. Officials should crack down on illegal sites, where no one monitors what is dumped or what happens to runoff.

But let's be clear. If citizens can't afford to legally get rid of stuff, when the current sites are cleaned up, others will quietly appear.

Legal dumping must be more affordable and more convenient. Free dumping one day a month is an obvious start. Four or five sites around the county could accept household trash one day a month; from each site, the county would transport refuse to the landfill.

If state and county officials want to cut down on illegal dumping, they must crack down on illegal sites and make legal dumping affordable.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.