CLOVERDALE -- Officials from the county's recycling district are pleased with the number of plastic containers, old newspapers and glass bottles that are being deposited in the large collection bins behind the Cloverdale Value Market.
What they're not so happy about is the illegal dumping of chemicals that has apparently been going on at the same time.
Staff from the West Central Solid Waste District, which oversees the recycling programs in Putnam, Parke, Montgomery and Morgan counties, responded to the Cloverdale drop-off site Thursday afternoon on a tip from a local resident. What they found was upsetting.
Littering the ground around the metal collection bins were nearly two dozen cans, of various sizes, containing everything from old paint, tar, varnish and other liquids that were simply not identifiable. They also found an empty propane cylinder and a five-gallon drum with the words "flammable" pasted on the side.
All the items had been placed directly in front of a large sign warning that illegal dumping is punishable by a $2,500 fine.
"Half of these things, we don't even know what they are," WCSWD Director Jane Collisi told the BannerGraphic as she donned a pair of gloves.
Collisi and another staff member loaded the items in the back of a pick-up truck to be brought back to Greencastle.
Normally they would have to find a suitable place to take the items, Collisi noted, but it just so happens that this weekend is Putnam County's annual Tox Away Day, and these items can be disposed of for free from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds.
"Luckily we've got Tox Away coming this weekend, so we can take it there," Collisi said, but the problem still exists for the future.
"We can't have a health hazard here," she said, noting that the chemicals could be tipped over on the ground and seep into the groundwater.
She also said she is worried about small children, from the surrounding neighborhood, who could mistakenly come in contact with the unknown substances.
In the past, West Central has experienced problems with illegal dumping at this and other sites. Several months ago, workers found a can with an open lid.
An unknown liquid was bubbling out of the top of the container and the fire department had to be called to investigate.
"I'm hoping it's more ignorance than maliciousness," Collisi said.
In all, West Central operates nine different rural recycling centers in the four-county region, including one in Roachdale. In eight of the locations, West Central pays community groups to provide surveillance for the recycling centers so illegal dumping doesn't take place.
But in Cloverdale, Collisi said, town officials said they would oversee the Value Market site. She said she may be forced to contact the Cloverdale Police Department to see if something can be done to stop the problem.
If that doesn't work, officials may be forced to shut down the recycling center or move it to another location in Putnam County.
"We don't want to have to discontinue this site because a lot of people use it," Collisi said.
The Cloverdale site produces enough recyclable material that it is emptied three times a week. Last year, 8-9 tons of material was collected at that site alone.
"I think 99 percent of the people are doing the right thing," Collisi said. "Unfortunately it's the 1-2 percent who don't and they could jeopardize it for everyone else."
Anyone with information about the illegal dumping is asked to call the West Central Solid Waste District at 653-2150.