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A truck carrying an uncovered waste container approaches the Morgan County landfill on Alabama 20 last week.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
A truck carrying an uncovered waste container approaches the Morgan County landfill on Alabama 20 last week.

Hiding In Plain Sight
Tarp-less trash trucks littering Valley Valley
Some drivers ignore rules; police vow crackdown

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

It’s not an uncommon occurrence, local residents say.

A waste-hauling truck is inbound from a construction site, headed for the municipal landfill. Because the truck isn’t going far, the driver chooses not to cover the open waste bin.

Then, it happens.

A gust of wind hits the truck just right, and a chunk of construction debris blows out onto the roadway.

Normally, it’s a small piece, not enough to seriously damage even the lightest passenger vehicle. But for residents living on Alabama 20, near the Morgan County-Decatur Landfill, it’s still litter.

They say trash escapes from uncovered waste haulers, and it’s time for it to stop.

“I’d say it happens more than often. It’s above common,” said Eugene Lovett, who has lived on Alabama 20 long enough to see all sorts of things fall off large trucks.

“It just looks filthy in front of people’s houses,” he said. “And when they Bush Hog the grass, all it does is tear the trash up and make it 10 times worse to look at.”

Lovett and others who live and drive on Alabama 20 say careless truck drivers who won’t take the time to cover their loads are to blame. But officials with local waste hauling firms say their drivers are not the culprits.

Three company spokesmen questioned by The Daily — Allied Waste Services, Waste Management and Richardson Waste Removal — all said their companies’ policies are to tarp all loaded construction waste bins, usually called roll-offs.

“It’s a common-sense policy,” said Mike Swistec, a spokesman for Allied Waste. “If there’s anything you’re carrying that’s light and has the possibility to blow out, you have to tarp.”

Swistec said all of his drivers are seasoned and experienced employees who would not risk violating company policy. He also said he thought some of Decatur’s smaller waste haulers were to blame for debris on the road.

“Some of those companies don’t have the high standards that us and Waste Management have,” he said.

But according to Rickey Terry, who runs the local landfill, while most drivers do use tarps to prevent debris from blowing out, some simply don’t bother. He said landfill officials have turned away drivers in extreme cases of negligence.

“The good ones come through, and they’re tarped down,” he said. “It usually boils down to a particular driver from either company who just won’t follow his own company’s policy.”

In addition, a Daily photographer snapped a picture this week of a fully loaded Allied Waste Services — formerly BFI — truck rolling down Alabama 20 without its tarp deployed.

“I have seen garbage trucks running and stuff flying off from them, and stuff just dripping out of them,” Lovett said.

So, what can be done to ensure all trash makes it to the landfill?

According to the Alabama Criminal Code, all privately hauled waste must be loaded in a way that prevents the waste from escaping.

While the law does not specifically require that tarps be used, it states that anyone who operates a vehicle in such a manner that litter results is guilty of a class-C misdemeanor.

Violators can be fined up to $500, according to the code.

In addition, when questioned by The Daily, Lt. Frank DeButy of the Decatur Police Department vowed to step up enforcement of the statute.

“I’ve already notified traffic enforcement,” he said. “Just tell us who it is, and we’ll stop them.

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