Many citizens in Walla Walla County are noticing a sharp increase in the amount of garbage and trash being strewed along roads, trails and sidewalks over the past five years.

Littering is not a right nor is it acceptable.

 And it looks as if some important changes are coming to Walla Walla County soon.

It is really going to cost to litter. In fact, it is against state law, and it will likely soon be against Walla Walla County ordinances.

 I am guessing that 90% of the folks in this county would never even think of littering as their personal sense of conduct would not let them do so.

 Walla Walla County Commissioner Todd Kimball is working with a citizens group to establish a littering ordinance with bite.

This is clearly needed given what is seen along our roadways.

Items like car parts — even whole cars — dead livestock, old furniture, bags of grass clippings, bags of household trash as well as beer and soda containers and thousands of cartridge casings and shotgun shells along with tobacco product packaging and chew cans.

Then there are one-time-use plastic bags and fast-food cups, straws and containers along with vehicle tires and medical trash like pill bottles, syringes with needles and loads of all kinds of hoses, drive belts, shattered wood, plastic and glass bottles filled with urine, used diapers and stuffed toys. It doesn’t seem to end.

 Now, was all this garbage intentionally pitched out? Probably not, but regardless, it is still littered along our public rights of way and spaces. Littering is an issue that has grown over time and now there are folks who are chronic litterers and garbage dumpers.

 Here in our wonderful county littering is creating some serious issues. I will talk about the impacts this trash has on our whole county.

Public health and  

environmental impacts

Trash and dumped garbage contents are made up of plastics, chemicals, inks, hydrocarbons from petroleum products and medical compounds.

 Once discarded on the ground this trash has containers whose contents seep into the soil, some contents get picked up by rain water and snow melt and carried into ponds, streams and rivers or percolates down into the shallow or alluvial aquifer.

 Chemical compounds are created as trash mixes and breaks down. Many of these compounds are toxic to life and have long lasting affects on all kinds of plants, wildlife and us.

To foul our shallow aquifer is like shooting ourselves in the foot. During hot summer days, litter and trash laying out along our roads also gives off many gases that are toxic and add air pollution issues to the mix.

 Littered trash attracts wildlife to the roads and many of these wonderful creatures get killed or wounded by cars and trucks. Once wild animals are injured along a road, they die miserable, painful deaths. Many wild animals get poisoned or infected with diseases by feeding on dumped livestock or road kills.

Economic impacts

Trashing an area and littering has some high costs attached to this poor behavior. When people litter it sends a message that those folks are ignorant of the complications of flipping a beer bottles into a field nor do they understand the expensive damage this seemingly simple act can cause for the landowner/farmer.

Dumping tires and old cars on private lands costs the landowners for removal and potentially damages very expensive equipment or implements. Pitching and dumping trash on private lands is a sure sign of disrespect and indicates immaturity and poor behavior.

Walla Walla County is a spectacular place, and as such it is attracting many visitors and tourists that do not want to see road sides littered with trash. We live in such a unique and special county that it deserves all our care and protection.

Every citizen of this wonderful place enjoys the beauty and many opportunities that Walla Walla County presents.

Yes, there are crews of folks out picking up trash here and there to manage all the trash littered along our roads. These efforts last but a short time as more trash is soon dumped on those stretches of road just cleaned up.

Now, back to the effort to make a county ordinance.

Commissioner Kimball would gladly answer any questions on the upcoming changes within the county concerning dumping and littering.

In closing, please contact the Walla Walla County commissioners and share your comments and views on the littering and dumping in this county.  

Remember Walla Walla County is too great to trash.

Mike Denny is conservation chairman for the Blue Mountain Audubon in Walla Walla County.