Given that we're all fortunate enough to live in a uniquely beautiful part of the world, the amount of litter that still gets thrown onto our local scenic roadways is just disgraceful.
We've gotten much better as far as the waterways are concerned. Water purity has been greatly enhanced over the past 40 to 50 years and the harbor seems to be the very picture of overall good marine health. The streams and rivers also appear to be in great shape, except in those areas impacted by pavement. Overall, the amount of waterborne rubbish has declined significantly.
How much? On James Island back in the early 1960s, I clearly remember people taking excess garbage, throwing it into the creeks and letting the tide take care of it. It was just the normal thing to do: easy, efficient, out of sight, out of mind.
But many of our rural highways remain dumping grounds, and nobody gives a hoot. (Not entirely true. Volunteer crews occasionally get together for organized cleanups.) Bohicket Road on Johns Island is probably the worst, but they're all bad and, unlike the waterways, have shown no signs of improvement over the years.
When was the last time the county actually arrested someone for littering and why aren't there prison details out there cleaning up?
More difficult questions to ask would be why there are apparently so many people who are too lazy to move trash from a vehicle to a garbage can at home as opposed to merely throwing it out of a window? Where's the pride in the natural beauty of our landscape and the respect for our fellow neighbors? Are we dealing with mostly cultural or socioeconomic issues and, if so, what can be done about them?
Well, maybe one thing that can be done would be to eliminate dumping fees so that people who can't afford them won't be tempted to throw their used mattresses or worn-out refrigerators off the backs of trucks. Could not some of our tax dollars be used to expand the duties of mowing crews so that there is at least a modicum of cleanup before bush hogs chop up litter and create a ticker tape blizzard of trash that gets dispersed every which way?
These and other issues were recently addressed by Johns Islanders and county officials via email that I happened to be privy to via "CC."
In one letter, Jean Townsend asks an official what good is the stormwater fee? What is it used for? Certainly not for litter since everything under the sun ends up in her little creek impacted by adjacent roadways.
The official responds (in part): "Dear Ms. Swinton, Thank you for contacting Charleston County Public Works via our road-and-bridge-maintenance-request email 'inbox' advising of your concerns about litter in creeks and tributaries on Johns Island and about annual stormwater fees. The stormwater utility fee is a direct result from a mandated federal program that is enforced through the state of SC by SC DHEC. As a result of this mandated program, Charleston County as well as several other local municipalities have developed a stormwater utility fee to offset the funding of this required program.
"The program is a result of federal regulations that require unincorporated county areas and municipalities to provide stormwater management to regulate runoff from all properties and activities that have the potential to pollute local water systems.
"Ms. Swinton, we appreciate your contacting us with your concerns that I will quickly direct to all appropriate county and state departments for their review and assistance."
Ms. Townsend responds accordingly (in part): "First, let me point out that my name is not 'Swinton.' but 'Townsend'-- Jean Townsend. Swinton is part of my email address. I was already aware that this addition tax (posing as a fee) was mandated by the federal government -- although the state of SC already had in place a stormwater program with a similar tax. As I also understand, not all municipalities in Charleston County have to pay this fee, so some residents of Charleston County are not charged for something that is apparently not working.
"My main concern is what is being done with the money derived from this fee? Our elected officials should be looking for better ways to control litter problems. Enforcing anti-littering law(s) or imposing greater fines would start the ball rolling. Of course, we always hear, 'We don't have the money to hire more officers,' etc. I believe they could be paid through fines collected."
And I couldn't agree more. I'd really like to see Sheriff Al Cannon and his team of officers get serious about this.
There's always plenty of evidence.
Much of the debris along roadsides has peoples' names written right on it.
If you happen to find mine, come lock me up. too!
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at email@example.com.