Continuous trash buildup on the side of the roads in the county is an ongoing eyesore for many readers.
Several readers have written in to LNP | LancasterOnline to complain about the littering on highways, especially along Route 222 in the area of Oregon Pike in Manheim Township and have asked who is in charge of cleaning up the litter and how often cleanings occur.
Since Route 222 is a state-owned road, PennDOT is responsible for cleanups along Route 222, said Dave Thompson, district press officer for PennDOT’s District 8. He added that PennDOT spends upwards of $13 million a year in cleaning up litter.
Thompson said cleanups happen “when possible” but typically in the spring when the department transitions from winter maintenance operations to warm weather maintenance operations. PennDOT crews typically concentrate these efforts along interstates and high-volume roadways, such as Route 222 and Route 30, Thompson said.
Thompson said that trash along Route 222 is not a new issue - and it’s a common problem on just about any roadway.
“The bottom line is people need to stop littering,” Thompson said. “It’s expensive to clean up, it’s harmful to the environment, it looks terrible and it’s against the law.”
Volunteer groups and organizations also perform cleanups of highways through the Pennsylvania Adopt-A-Highway (penndot.gov) Program. Those groups enter two-year agreements and pledge to perform at least two cleanups per year, Thompson said. PennDOT provides vests, gloves, trash bags and picks up bagged litter collected by the groups.
“We do depend on PennDOT to coordinate the groups in the Adopt-A-Highway program to do trash pickup,” said Rick Kane, Manheim Township Manager and Secretary. “We have a citizen group here in the township, the Sustainability Committee, that does smaller trash pickups along streams and sometimes roadways. ... We are working with them to try and expand their scope and see if they will be willing to do more highway cleanups as a supplement to the state-run Adopt-A-Highway program.”
The township occasionally gets calls or emails about litter on the highways in general, Kane said, but noted that trash along all highways, including Route 222, is a longstanding issue. He also said the members of the public have called and emailed with complaints about trash on Route 30 recently.
“We are hopeful between PennDOT and perhaps some more community groups that it (222) can get cleaned up. It looks terrible,” Kane said.
Fines for Littering or Dumping
Those who do litter are subject to fines.
Littering is covered under section 3709 of PA Title 75, commonly referred to as the PA Vehicle Code, explained Sgt. Barry Waltz of Manheim Township Police. Littering and dumping are often synonymous, but littering involves someone throwing an object out of a vehicle while traveling whereas dumping is someone stopping somewhere and unloading trash onto public or private property.
Additionally, there is “scattering rubbish” which essentially means someone litters while not in a vehicle, Waltz said.
Manheim Township’s Ordinance 421-35 goes hand-in-hand with the state’s vehicle code and covers any other form of littering or dumping, Waltz said.
The ordinance carries a “sliding” fine, which means it is set by the Magisterial District Judges, and is up to $1,000 per offense, Waltz said. Similarly, the fine for violating section 3709 is also sliding, but depends on where the offense occurs.
While there are ordinances and fines established for those who do litter, enforcement can be difficult.
“Enforcement is obviously easier when the violation is observed,” Waltz said. “I can tell you that a littering violation, throwing a cigarette butt, fast food trash, food from a vehicle can be used as a legal reason to initiate a traffic stop”, Waltz said. “Someone that drives to a remote area and dumps tires is going to be harder to enforce. These cases are usually solved by the land owner having video of the suspect, or some other identifiable information being left behind.”