By Michael Howell
There is no question that many different people have been dumping trash of every sort in a draw located off Snyder Lane just below Sunset Bench southeast of Stevensville for a long, long time. But that’s about to change. The Ravalli County Commissioners, last Thursday, November 17, decided to take action aimed at shutting the dump down.
For one thing, it is illegal. Dumps and landfills are regulated by the state and must be licensed. According to DEQ officials, this site has never been licensed.
“This is obviously an illegal solid waste dump,” said Larry Alheim of the DEQ Solid Waste enforcement division. He said an agent had recently visited the site.
“It’s an illegal solid waste dump on county land, though,” said Alheim. “Because it’s county property we are waiting for them to take the lead.”
That’s the second problem with the dump and for the county commissioners it’s a major problem.
According to Rod Daniel, Sanitarian and Environmental Specialist who works for the Department of Environmental Health, the dump was brought to his agency’s attention recently by a complaining landowner. He said a new resident in a home overlooking the area, Alan Hull, was surprised when the snow melted to see that he was living above a garbage dump. After looking into it he decided it might not be legal and made a complaint to the county Department of Environmental Health.
Daniel said that he checked some aerial photos that showed it was a very old dump site. He said another sanitarian in the office remembered checking it out about 15 years ago and that it was mostly discarded machinery and metals. He said at the time, with no ordinance prohibiting it and no real health risk posed by the metal, no action was taken. He told Hull that if someone was still using it, it would be a different story. Hull produced a video of a truck belonging to a local roofing contractor dumping a load at the site.
With evidence of current activity Daniel then looked at property ownership records to see who owned the property and, lo and behold, it was the county.
According to Daniel the owner of some adjacent property, Daniel Hinton, apparently believed that the property belonged to him and was charging people to dump at the site.
Daniel said that when he visited the site he was “aghast at the scope of the mess.” He said it contained five-gallon paint jugs, scrap insulation, roofing shingles, and more. He said it also contains some written material bearing names and addresses.
“We took it to the commissioners a few months ago,” said Daniel. “They passed it to the Sheriff and the County Attorney.” But with no action being taken, DEH Director Lea Guthrie decided to place it before the commissioners once again.
“I think our complainant is happy now that some action may finally be taken over this thing,” said Daniel.
At the commissioners’ meeting Thursday, at the suggestion of Deputy County Attorney Dan Browder, the commissioners decided to verify all the property ownership questions and property lines as well as the easements required for access to the property. Right now it appears that an irrigation company may have an access easement to the property and might give permission for the county to use it to access the dumpsite. They also requested that cease and desist letters should be sent to the roofing company and the landowner. It was also agreed to see if the ditch company would agree to a closed gate on the road accessing the site and the placement of a sign that says: No Dumping.