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Dept. of Ecology sees increase in illegal dumping in parks, public lands

Illegal dumping is taking place in many of the state's parks, trails, and public lands. (Nicole Jennings/KIRO Radio)

While many waste collection sites are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in illegal dumping of waste materials throughout parks and public lands.

“There are a lot of collection sites that are closed at the moment, and that includes the collection sites that would accept your household hazardous waste,” said Ty Keltner, communications manager with the Washington State Department of Ecology. “And because of that, many people have decided to abandon those materials in the environment.”

These hazardous materials can include everything from paint to oil, cleaning chemicals to pesticides. What they have in common is that they all can be harmful to plants, animals, and any people who come upon them.

Keltner said state parks, especially in King County, are being used as hiding places for people who think they are being clever and discreet when dumping their waste. Green River Gorge State Park near Auburn and woodlands near Redmond have been recent victims of chemical dumping.

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“They’ll drive out to a secluded location — our state parks and other locations — and leave them in a place where they think it’s not going to be a problem for anyone,” Keltner said. “But, it actually is a problem for everyone.”

One quart of oil can pollute over 100,000 gallons of water. A seemingly small amount of materials can cause lasting harm to an entire ecosystem.

Each time this is reported, the department has to spend time and resources sending crews to clean up after the illegal dumpers.

If you have materials that need to be disposed of and your local collection site is closed, hang onto those items in a secure location until restrictions are lifted.

“Make sure that you store it in a place that is safe, where it’s not going to be dumped or spilled, where it’s not going to be accessed by pets or children,” Keltner said. “It could be your garage, it could be your shed.”

In the event that you don’t have space to store these materials, some facilities are accepting hazardous waste. Check the Department of Ecology’s website for a list of sites by county.

If you see any hazardous items dumped on a trail, in a park, or on other public lands, report it here to the Department of Ecology’s spill response team.

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