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State attempts to stamp out litter bugs

by Tina Canon

STAFF WRITER

In the habit of throwing the empty pop can out the window? Or leaving trash behind after fishing or having a picnic?

Better change those habits: A new litter control law has been signed into law by Gov. Bob Wise.

House Bill 2222 will go into effect July 1. It will make littering a misdemeanor with some heavy fines and penalties attached.

The bill was introduced Feb. 15 by Delegates Thomas Campbell, D-Greenbrier, and Virginia Mahan, D-Summers. Wise signed the bill April 5.

The law will make it a crime to throw litter from a motor vehicle, assessing three points against the drivers' license, said Paul Hamrick, director of the Harrison County Solid Waste Authority. If there is more than one person in the vehicle, and it can not be determined who littered, the driver will be held responsible, Hamrick said.

"Also, littering on public or private property or the waters of the state will result in a misdemeanor and fines according to the amount of litter," Hamrick said.

Upon conviction, the penalties will include:

n 100 pounds or 27 cubic feet will result in a fine of $50 to $1,000 and/or eight to 16 hours of community service cleaning up litter in a public area.

n More than 100 pounds but less than 500 pounds or 216 cubic feet will result in a fine of $500 to $2,000 and/or 16 to 32 hours of community service.

n More than 500 pounds or 216 cubic feet will result in a fine of $2,500 to $25,000 and/or jail time up to one year.

n Any second or subsequent violation will be subject to double the authorized fines.

n Civil penalties for litter convictions will result in fines of $100 to $1,000 plus court costs.

"The DNR law enforcement, state police, Harrison County deputies and all municipal law enforcement officers can issue tickets as they do for traffic violations," said Hamrick.

The Harrison County Commission can hire a litter control officer and create an enforcement agency, according to the bill. The agency would include the city engineer, a city hall officer, a county fire chief, the county litter control officer, two members at large to serve for two terms and the county sheriff as an ex-officio member.

Hamrick will be approaching the commissioners about the bill at the May 21 meeting.

The bill states that 50 percent of the civil penalties are to be sent to the state treasurer for a special litter control fund and the rest is to be sent to the county or regional Solid Waste Authority for litter prevention, cleanup and enforcement.

Staff writer Tina Canon can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at tcanon@exponent-telegram.com.

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