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Posted: 5:40 p.m. Thursday, July 24, 2014

Trash cop catching dumpers of toxic trash

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Illegal Dumping photo
Jody Hauk was indicted in connection with dumping roofing shingles. Large pile of roofing shingles just off Vance Rd. submitted
Illegal Dumping photo
Illegal Dumping

By Cheryl McHenry

When people dump hazardous waste, it not only pollutes our environment. It also puts everyone's health at risk. That's why Montgomery County's "Trash Cop" is doing something about it! Since January of 2013, Sheriff's Deputy Victoria Dingee has worked as the county's Environmental Enforcement Deputy. Her efforts in the last eighteen months have led to 45 convictions. Another 17 cases are currently awaiting court action, and nearly 150 dump sites have been cleaned up by inmates from the county jail.

Dingee has investigated all kinds of dump sites. The most disturbing are those that leave hazardous waste to seep into the soil and groundwater. Among them:

--Containers of dry cleaning chemicals dumped right on top of a Dayton storm drain. Steven Harden, 52, has been indicted for Illegal Storage or Disposal of Hazardous Waste. According to Dingee, Harden had been hired to clean out a garage where the chemicals had been stored for about ten years. Dingee says Harden could have brought the hazardous waste to Montgomery County Solid Waste for free.

--A pile of discarded roofing shingles that Dingee describes as "as big as a house" sitting just off Vance Rd. in Dayton. An estimated 25,000 tons of shingles are stockpiled there and will cost the city about a million dollars to clean up. Dingee says the property owner Jody Hauk, 45, of West Carrollton, accepted payment for the shingles which he had planned to recycle, but he never had the shingles tested for asbestos as required by law. Now the shingles are breaking down, she says, potentially endangering the soil and groundwater. She says Hauk was warned repeatedly by her, the city of Dayton, the Health Department and the EPAt. Now he's been indicted for ten counts of Illegal Operation or Maintenance of a Construction and Demolition Facility.

--Twenty drums leaking unknown chemicals sitting behind an abandoned trucking company in Harrison Township. Dingee says TDC closed two years ago and the owner left the now-corroding drums behind his building, close to the homes of unsuspecting neighbors. She fears the chemicals could be flammable and catch fire. "This business owner is responsible for this waste," said Dingee, "and to just leave it here is very irresponsible."

Even neighborhood dump sites are potentially hazardous. Teresa Bush of Dayton recently complained about trash dumped in the alley next to her side yard on Edgar Avenue. The unsightly pile included a child's car seat, tires, spoiled food, and broken glass from old television sets that likely contains lead.

"It's very disheartening," said Dingee, shaking her head. "The kids that are playing out here and riding their bikes have to go past this every single day."

More and more cases are ending up in court, and judges are handing out fines that far exceed what it would cost to dispose of the items properly. A New Lebanon man was recently fined $10,000 for hauling more than ten tires without a permit. He is appealing his conviction and sentence.

The irony is that dumpers could save themselves time and money by disposing of waste properly at either of the Montgomery County Solid Waste District's two locations.

"Going to court is not fun," says Dingee, "and if you can avoid it by paying two cents a pound to take it down to Montgomery County Solid Waste, why not do that?"

She encourages people to call 225-HELP or go to www.mcohio.org/envirocrimes to report illegal dumping.

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