JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Broken appliances, old tires, piles of trash – nobody likes seeing illegal dumping in their own neighborhoods.
But the problem is so bad in area of Pierce County, a dedicated ‘trash cop’ is trying to require those responsible for the dumping to pay the bill.
Base officials at JBLM say illegal dumping not only damages the environment but it also has a big impact on soldier training. But there is a dedicated investigator digging through piles like this to help recoup tax dollars spent on clean up.
“In a 5-acre area from where we are standing there are five dump sites,” said Greg Mason.
Mason says and he knows all the nooks and crannies on JBLM where people toss their trash.
“People know what I am,” he said. “They’ll see me coming and they’ll understand trash cop better than environmental investigator.”
From electronics to broken appliances and household trash, mason says he finds just about everything tossed into the brush along SR-507.
“Unfortunately, we do have those bad neighbors,” he said. “For the most part we have great neighbors and some of them actually notify us of these dump sites.”
Each year about 150 tons of trash is dumped onto JBLM. Not only does some of it damage the environment, but a clean-up can take weeks away from a soldier’s training.
“Having to pick this stuff up is horribly deflating on the morale,” said Mason.
But thankfully, many who dump here leave behind clues that Mason uses to build a case to recuperate clean-up costs. He identifies who owns the trash and military officials file civil suits against the owners of the trash.
Base officials say it costs close to half a million dollars every year to clean up illegal dump sites. But as long as the trash cop is on duty, mason believes his work serves as a deterrent for others who might toss their garbage for someone else to clean up.
“Reaching into somebody’s wallet and taking money from them, word certainly spreads,” he said.