Proposal calls for stronger fines, potential prison time for illegal dumping in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, P.A. --- The current penalty for illegally dumping trash is $25

Public works officials believe that fine is the worth the risk to dumpers, as opposed to paying the $190, per ton, incinerator fee.

Now, David West, deputy director of Harrisburg Public Works, said crews are trying to put caution tape around cleared, habitual problems spots around the city to try and deter dumpers.

"We're just doing what we can do to try and negate some of this stuff," said West.

A proposal by Public Works introduced Tuesday night before the city council would bring a substantial increase to the penalty.

It suggests anyone found illegally dumping would face a $1,000 fine, up to 90 days in prison, or both.

It also adds more fines for improper waste disposal or excessive accumulation.

For example, for improper waste disposal: a first offense would be $100, a second offense would $250, and a third or each offense after would be $500.

Excessive accumulation would be fined equally to improper waste disposal.

However, 1,000 pounds would equate to the penalties of illegal dumping.

Illegal dumping and excessive accumulation citations would also hold the person responsible for the clean-up costs

Jarvis Brown, the neighborhood outreach coordinator for Tri County Community Action said he believes an increase in fees would only be one step to solving the problem.

He said something needs to be done about the vacant lots and abandoned homes providing cover for illegal dumping.

"Getting the community involved and doing something to help them look better and attractive in the communities, whether that's fencing or planting new grass would also be helpful," said Brown.

Regardless of the fee amounts, West said crews still need help catching the dumpers.

He said they promise anonymity to anyone who reports the license plate of a vehicle spotted illegally dumping.

"We just need to catch them. We need any and everyone's help in order to do that. This is all of our city," said West.

Officials with the Harrisburg City Clerk's office says the proposal will head to a council member's committee following its introduction.

He also said they're planning three or four public input sessions before it would come to a vote.