COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As we continue our coverage of litter and illegal dumping in the Midlands, folks from across our viewing area tell us the problem seems to be getting worse.
Bottles, cups, carts...these days, trash in the area is overflowing.
“There have been a lot of challenges since COVID,” said Richland County Councilwoman Chakisse Newton. “You have much more litter, and then we also have far fewer resources...we have more people who are home, more people eating takeout and throwing some of the food and beverages out of the window. At the same time, some of the help that we, at the county level used to have, and some of the help that the state used to have, is no longer there.”
Since the pandemic hit, the South Carolina Department of Corrections suspended the clean-up efforts normally performed by their inmate litter crews as a COVID-19 safety precaution.
Those 22 crews were known to work more than 15,000 miles of roadway around the state.
“When the litter crews were out for a full year in 2019, because it was about this time last year that we pulled them back, we picked up over 110,000 bags of litter,” said Bryan Stirling, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. “And there was still litter on the roads.”
Leaders like Councilwoman Newton are trying to remedy that.
“One of the things that we’ve done at the county is, we’ve hired additional resources, where possible, to go out and clean,” she said. “Additionally, we’ve looked at how we can station a cleaning crew in certain areas that we know are problematic. How can we look at some of those high traffic and high littered roads, and how can we tackle that problem.”
Newton says she’s working with the ombudsman’s office, county administrator, and public works staff to make sure these types of high litter areas in her district are on the radar for enforcement and ticketing when litterbugs can’t dispose of their trash properly.
“This is where I’m from,” she said. “This is where I live, and I’m proud to be from Lower Richland. I’m proud to live in Richland County, and we want our community to look like the great community that we are. So, fortunately, my constituents feel the same way. They really care, they are really bothered by litter, and we are all going to work together to make it better.”
The councilwoman says they really depend on constituents to be their eyes and ears if they spot a high trash area.
If you see one, she says you can contact the ombudsman’s office. That number is 803-929-6000. Newton says you can also email the ombudsman’s office at email@example.com. She suggests copying your councilperson on that email.
Newton says she’s organizing a community clean-up day in her district with State Representative Jermaine Johnson. That’s scheduled for Saturday, April 17, 2021.
As we get closer to that date, WIS will have more information for anyone who wants to grab a bag and help clean up.