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Items people illegally dump have changed, but problem still the same in KCMO

Issue ongoing for 30 years
Illegal dumping
Posted at 6:16 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 13:28:36-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City officials are waiting on the results of an audit that started last September to look at how well they're addressing illegal dumping.

The auditor's office said the report should be published by the end of April.

The last time such an audit took place was 1996. The report noted that illegal dumping was a "major problem city-wide."

It still is.

"It's a never-ending process," Alan Ashurst, the city's illegal dumping investigator, said.

Ashurst has anywhere from 17 to 25 cameras hooked up at dumping sites to catch people in the act.

"The overwhelming majority of illegal dumping takes place right in the middle of these neighborhoods in the middle of the night," Ashurst said.

Since last May, the city has issued about 200 summons to try to hold these people accountable.

One site is at the top of Ashurst's list - Northeast Oak Ridge Drive in the Northland.

The street leads to a dead end in a wooded area that backs up to a neighborhood. Tires line the street. Bags and bags of trash are spilled everywhere. Even Google maps reflects the garbage.

Illegal dumping site northland
This illegal dumping site is on NE Oak Ridge Drive in the northland.
Illegal dumping
Bags of trash line this illegal dumping site.

Back when the city did their audit in the 90s, they found most of the illegal dumping was commercial waste. Now, it's different. It's people throwing out their garbage and personal items.

Ashurst said it comes down to plain old disrespect.

"Because some of these folks don't have these abilities to follow these basic rules, they have no respect for their neighborhood, we have to have a department to spend taxpayer dollars paying people like myself so people don't throw their garbage on the street," Ashurst said.

Illegal dumping trash
Most of the illegal dumping in KCMO consists of people's personal garbage.

In 1996, the city was spending more than $400,000 a year on illegal dumping clean up, according to then-city auditor Mark Funkhouser.

Now, the city spends more than $2.5 million a year on clean up, not including clean neighborhood and litter control efforts. Of course, the pandemic affected this city function just like everything else.

"Litter cleanup, trash cleanup has also decreased because of the pandemic," Maggie Green, a city spokesperson, said. "The same resources that were used to clean up alongside our highways, for example, were not available as much during the pandemic."

The city says they'll have more resources in the coming year, like more bulky item pickups and neighborhood cleanup days. The city will allocate $600,000 starting in May to fund partnerships that will hire people to pick up trash along the streets and highways.

Another tough part about this evolving issue is deciphering whether items have been dumped or if they're a part of a camp where people live.

"The illegal dumping, as we know it, has gotten better. The trash has gotten worse, if that makes sense," Ashurst said.

Residents can call (816) 513-DUMP (3867) to report illegal dumping. The city says they can usually take care of the problem within 24-36 hours. If it's a larger issue, like the site off NE Oak Ridge, it'll take more time and trucks to haul the trash away.

The city listed its existing cleanup efforts:

  • The city hosts around 11 city-sponsored cleanups from Kansas City North to South Kansas City from April through November annually. Two of these events include the Hard to Recycle events offered each spring and fall.
  • Neighborhood dumpster program: approximately 400 dumpsters are used by 200+ Neighborhood groups from May through October annually.
  • Blue Bag program: neighborhood groups, organizations or residents can pick up blue bags from any CAN center in KCMO and organize their own neighborhood cleanup throughout the year; and KCMO crews will pick up the blue bags on the street after the cleanup is done.
  • KC Water and KC Parks host seasonal cleanups along waterways and parks.
  • Crews monitor for dumping sites or littler cleanup on a regular basis throughout the year.
  • Partnerships with MoDOT, Downtown Council and the Crime Commission to increase litter cleanup efforts along highways downtown.

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