With the help of a state illegal dump and litter abatement fund, which is paying 75 percent of the cost, the fiscal court is cleaning up five illegal trash dumps designated by the Kentucky Division of Waste Management in the Black Mountain area.
Chad Brock, the District 2 magistrate (Clover Fork area), said he was contacted by the "Ridge Runners" about cleaning up the areas along the roadways. The ATV club has been responsible for bringing adventurers from as far away as New York City to ride in Harlan County's mountains.
For five days, efforts have been under way in clearing an illegal dump on the riverbank at Colts. So far over 600 bags have been filled from the garbage that lined the river by Harry Smith Contracting, which will be completing its work after removing the larger objects like appliances and car frames with heavy equipment. Items that can be recycled are taken to the Harlan County Recycling Center, and the rest is taken to Waste Management's transfer station to be sent to a landfill.
Brock toured the site today with Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop and solid waste coordinator Lakis Mavinidis.
"The difference is huge," said Mavinidis, who was very excited about the progress on this site. He said at one time there were over 130 illegal dump sites in the county. He believes that number to much lower now.
"The fiscal court has given a 100 percent effort to keep the county clean," he said. "We're making a dent in the problem."
A native of Ages, Brock also has a personal interest in cleaning up the area.
"This is just one of many things we're working on to clean up Clover Fork," said Brock. He said they move several trailers to different homes in the area every day, so residents can throw away excessive garbage."
He and Grieshop explained that they would like to start at Holmes Mill, at the head of Clover Fork near the Virginia line, and clean the river all the way to Harlan. The Colts clean-up site is a pilot to see how much garbage can be removed with a certain amount of money, and then estimates for the rest of the clean up can be made.
"It's costly to clean up rivers and mountains," said Grieshop.
But he said there was a movement in Harlan County with tourists and recreational groups.
"They come to see the county's mountains and rivers," he said. "We have to have our rivers and roadsides clean."
Physical clean-up is only on facet of the approach to cleaning up the county.
"Environmental education is very important," said Brock. "I believe the way to make a real difference is to teach people at his age," he said while pointing to his 4-year-old son, Chad Hunter, who also went along for the tour.
"Ten percent of the people create 90 percent of the problem," said Mavinidis. He said Waste Management often visits homes to sign people up for garbage pick up.
"We're trying to get people to be responsible," said Grieshop.
In the last decade, Kentucky counties have spent more than $51 million to clean up more than 21,000 illegal dumps.