Venango County Residents Speak Out on Area’s Littering Problem

| November 30, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – A recent Litter Research Study found that most Pennsylvanians see litter as an ongoing problem in our state, and Venango County is no exception to those findings.

The Pennsylvania Litter Research Study – organized in 2018-2019 with funding from PA DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection); PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation); Keep America Beautiful, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful – conducted a phone survey collecting 500 residents’ views on litter and littering, while field teams performed on-the-ground litter counts in 180 locations statewide, including state and local roads and urban and rural areas.

The research found that over 96 percent of survey respondents said littering is a problem in Pennsylvania, and the field results indicate an estimated 500 million pieces of litter on Pennsylvania roads.

“Pennsylvania has a littering problem. Trash lines many of our roads and neighborhood streets. Hillsides and streambanks are strewn with tires and other garbage illegally dumped,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

“This presents health hazards, it contaminates the soil and water, and cleaning it up is costly to the Commonwealth and taxpayers.

These problems aren’t isolated to more urban areas, either. Responses from local residents show our region has its fair share of litter and dumping issues.

Barbara Hurley-Pierce and Connie Burkhardt explained their concerns for the littering problem in Venango County.

“Litter is definitely a big problem in our area!” Hurley-Pierce stated. “It’s a common sight on any drive through the beautiful countryside and in places where people go for outdoor recreation. But a major issue in town is cigarette butts.

“I am constantly in shock at how they litter our streets – in the neighborhoods and downtown. It’s a normal thing to see people smoking outside their homes, or while walking down the sidewalk and then toss their lit cigarette into the street or onto the sidewalk. It seems like it is so common that I assume people were never taught that cigarette butts are litter, and that it is somehow acceptable to discard them in the street. And, it’s across a broad spectrum of people. I’ve seen it from people that I consider to be community leaders who would know better. It’s not limited to a social class or a particular education level. It’s appalling and unreasonable in my opinion.”

Burkhardt added, “Yes, it is a concern. I run in a lot of rural areas around here and am always disgusted at the trash thrown out along the roads. Polk Cutoff, a beautiful area, has a lot of trash along the road. Also, Pecan Hill or Old Rt 8, also beautiful, has an area where people just dump garbage along the road and over the hill side.”

Chantal Swarm and Natasha Whitman echoed Hurley-Pierce and Burkhardt’s sentiments.

“(I) drove through Hasson Park a few weeks ago and one of the picnic table areas was covered in trash (plates, bottles, cans, paper etc) and nobody was around. Like they had a get together and then just left and left it all behind,” Swarm noted.

Whitman added that “People dump their garbage on Beagle Club Road all the time! They think because it is isolated and wilderness that it is their dumping ground. We get anything from cans of beer, to bags of garbage, to old TVs, to old stoves! Makes me so angry!”

Other Venango County residents are also concerned about the trash dumped along the roadways.

Josh Shreffy Shreffler said, “Just take a walk down my road and you’ll see! Or go fishing along the creeks and lakes. It’s sad.”

“You can drive down any back road around here and you will find garbage dumped off the sides. There’s old TVs, tires, furniture, and just full bags of trash,” Marissa Dolecki noted.

According to PennLive, details released at the recent 2019 Litter Summit in Harrisburg include counts tallying 259,467,023 individual pieces of litter, comprised of 37.1 percent cigarette butts, 30.4 percent plastics, 12.2 percent papers, 6.4 percent metals, 4.2 percent organics, 3.1 percent tire treads, and 1.1 percent glass.

The cigarette butts, in particular, were a noted modern, as Secretary McDonnel noted they carry all of the chemicals involved in their production, from pesticides and herbicides to arsenic.

“DEP has funded annual community and illegal dump site clean-ups around the state for over two decades. Thanks to these volunteer events, millions of pounds of litter have been removed from our land and water, but trash is accumulating faster than anyone can keep up with,” McDonnell stated in a recent release.

The results of the study paved the way for a new initiative to reduce littering issues in the state.

DEP, PennDOT, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful plan to release a report presenting conclusions and complete data from the study and open discussion early in the new year. At that time the agencies will use the data to begin the task of strategizing a framework of measures to reduce specific littering behaviors.

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