Illegal dumping incident in Cottonwood likely to cost taxpayers

COTTONWOOD — Disposal costs for a dozen televisions dumped next to the Cottonwood city lift station will most likely fall to taxpayers.

The units were found abandoned this month on Cottonwood city property in a central location within the city limits. Fees to dispose of the units, normally $10 apiece, will lead to a $240 city expense unless new information about the incident becomes available.

“Most likely the city will pay to dispose of them,” said Cottonwood City Administrator Teather Bliss. “It’s a situation where someone decided to avoid paying and to just pass the cost onto others.”

She said the situation with the TVs is unusual only because of how it took place is a mostly visible location near daily industrial activity.

Other situations that she’s seen or heard about as a city government employee, however, show that obsolete products, such as older electronics, appliances, and tires at times are left in places that are more rural or more secluded. She said the problem has regional, statewide and national proportions.

When special collections are offered to save property owners the cost of hauling those objects to a landfill, it’s not unheard of for someone to arrive at the collection site early, drop off items, and then leave without paying their fee.

“Based on what I’ve seen, I don’t think more frequent collections would prevent illegal dumping, at least not completely,” Bliss said. “A small percentage of people just want to avoid having to pay.”

She noted that a disposal cost of $240 could instead be used for needs such as office supplies, fuel for maintenance vehicles, or community center operations. Cottonwood is currently in the early stages of starting a community foundation, one that’s expected to generate funds for a variety of community-based projects once its cash reserves from both large and small donations reach enough of an interest-bearing total.”

Lyon County Environmental Specialist Roger Schroeder said there aren’t any reimbursement programs available to help local governments defray the disposal costs from illegal dumping incidents.

He recommends that cost information be forwarded to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. If MPCA officials receive information from different locations around the state to indicate substantial expense totals, it could be used to evaluate the need for some type of financial assistance.

Schroeder also recommends that any owner of stockpiled products contact county environmental offices for help in finding the most cost effective disposal plan. One-day local collections are usually designed for small numbers of items brought to the sites by many different participants.

“It’s helpful if we don’t have one individual with a volume that takes up a big part of the collection capacity,” Schroeder said. “It’s good for everyone if they call ahead. There might be a lower cost to take a large amount of products to the landfill, even with a mileage expense.”