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'Operation Groundhog' aims to catch dumpers

September 14, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Illegal trash dumpers in Berkeley County will have a new nemesis to contend with next year.

Two small video cameras disguised as rocks, logs or garbage will be placed at illicit dump sites around the county through Operation Groundhog, according to the head of the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority.

"People will think twice about dumping their garbage. Somebody's going to get caught with this," Authority Chairman Clint Hogbin said.

The Solid Waste Authority plans on buying two video cameras that will use night-vision technology to catch illegal dumpers in the act, Hogbin said.

Illegal trash dumping is punishable by a $2,000 fine in West Virginia, Hogbin said.

The cameras will be activated by motion sensors and are designed to capture images of both people and the cars hauling the trash, Hogbin said.

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"They have a dual lens that can zoom in on a license plate," Hogbin said.

The video units are also designed to work day and night and in bad weather conditions, he said.

Camouflaging the cameras should prevent dumpers from taking off with them, Hogbin said.

Citizen complaints about people dumping trash off roadsides and near creeks prompted the Solid Waste Authority to begin looking for ways to put an end to the practice, Hogbin said.

Conservation officers with the state Division of Natural Resources office in Berkeley County spend half their time handling dumping complaints but lack a way to catch the perpetrators, he said.

The Solid Waste Authority had originally planned to raise enough money to buy one camera for the DNR to use but collected enough to get two cameras, Hogbin said.

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, got $7,000 for the project from the 1999 state budget digest, Hogbin said.

With funds for the cameras now in place, the Solid Waste Authority plans to bid the project out within a month, Hogbin said.

It should take about three to five months to complete construction on the cameras, Hogbin said.

The simple knowledge of the cameras' existence will make dumpers reluctant, Berkeley County Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said.

"I think just hearing about the cameras will scare people off," Dunham said.

Dunham said he gets complaints about illegal dump sites mainly in the Glengary and Marlowe areas of Berkeley County.

A woman who lives near U.S. 11 and Nestle Quarry Road complained in January to the County Commission that people routinely dumped trash, tires and chunks of deer meat near her home.

The cameras will go a long way toward solving the dumping problem, Dunham said.

"My only concern is that people will just try to find new places to dump their trash," he said.

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