UNION — A partnership has been formed in Union County in an effort to cut down on the amount of litter thrown out at local wetlands.
On the website for the Tyger Enoree River Alliance (TERA), the group’s mission statement is a list of eight ways in which they plan to promote the health of the local rivers.
The first way is “(b)y discouraging litter. General litter pick up and awareness along the rivers. Those using the rivers and corridor are asked to first, ‘leave only foot prints.’”
TERA’s co-founder, Jon Durham, has now formed a partnership with the Union County Sheriff’s Office, Crime Stoppers and the U.S. Forestry Service in an effort to crack down on a growing litter problem.
At a meeting Tuesday morning at Union County Emergency Services, Sheriff David Taylor, Chief Deputy Perry Haney, Deputy Scott Coffer and Durham pointed out that federal and forestry lands comprise approximately 22 percent of Union County, including boat ramps, campsites and ranges.
Those areas are also ones that are prone to receiving relatively large amounts of litter.
Durham and TERA want to bring awareness to this problem and discourage people from contributing to it.
“It’s about changing attitudes,” Durham said, pointing out that he has often found shell casings and duck decoys with holes in them in the water, meaning that hunters removed weights and tossed the used plastic decoys back into the river.
Durham also mentioned that the opening and closing days of deer season are also prime time for litter as hunters empty out their campers, and TERA organized a litter sweep for both of those days.
“We wanted them to see us out there picking up litter while they’re throwing out litter,” Durham said.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office and Crime Stoppers are no strangers to the litter problem, either. During Tuesday’s meeting, Sheriff Taylor discussed efforts aimed against illegal dumping sites.
“If we know of one people are visiting regularly, we will go out and put up a camera there,” Taylor said, adding that recording video has worked in several littering cases.
Taylor also mentioned that methamphetamine lab dumping has also become a problem. He said that milky colored soda bottles, or plastic bottles that might look like they contain fertilizer or drain cleaner might be from a meth lab.
“We found about 20 of them at one time, and they were smoking,” Taylor said.
He warned that anyone who finds such a bottle should leave it alone and call 9-1-1.
TERA and the U.S. Forestry Service — as well as the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Crime Stoppers — want to bring awareness to the problem and eliminate it. In doing so, they are asking the public for assistance.
Crime Stoppers accepts calls from anyone who sees suspicious or criminal activity, and littering falls into that category. Anyone who sees someone littering or dumping illegally should call Crime Stoppers at (864) 427-0800. No personal information is ever asked, and if the tip results in an arrest, recovery of stolen property or drug seizures, the caller may be eligible for a cash reward.
Deputy Coffer said it’s hard to crack down on the litter problem but not impossible. He also said he is a firm believer in Crime Stoppers and the reward system, and he believes this partnership will make an impact.
Durham pointed out that taking pride in the Sumter National Forest and areas along the rivers and keeping them clean could also have an economic impact. He used Pisgah National Forest as an example, mentioning that such litter problems are not an issue there.
“Union hasn’t seen the positive results, yet,” Durham said, pointing out that the revenue of one Whitmire business increases by 25 percent during hunting season. “Our mission is not to improve economy, but that is the back side of it.”
For more information about the Tyger Enoree River Alliance, visit www.tygerenoree.com.
To report a tip to Crime Stoppers, call (864) 427-0800. For more information about how Crime Stoppers works, contact Chief Deputy Perry Haney at (864) 429-1612.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.