- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Drivers tired of dodging tree branches, rocks and sand as they drive on area roads will likely applaud a crackdown hinted at yesterday on uncovered trucks heading for the dump in Montgomery County, Md.

"We have lots of litter in Montgomery County," said County Council member Phil Andrews, 3rd District Democrat, before ceremoniously riveting the first of four large warning signs at the truck entrance into the trash-transfer station off Shady Grove Road.

The prominent 4-foot signs at the transfer station entrances warn haulers that drivers of uncovered loads may be fined $500.

As Mr. Andrews spoke, big and little trucks constantly passed by. Most of the big trucks were legal and conformed to a law that requires loads to be covered.

But most of the pickups loaded with grass, bush and tree trimmings were uncovered and were openly breaking the law as they drove past Mr. Andrews toward the dump.

There was no wind, so nothing was flying out of the backs of the trucks, but officials said it is a different story on the open roads where trucks create their own wind, even within speed limits, and spew out a trail of debris.

"When stuff flies out of vehicles on the roadway, that causes a traffic hazard," Mr. Andrews said, explaining that a main reason for the law was because of sand, rocks and gravel flying out of uncovered trucks.

County police support the anti-litter law and are alerted to enforce it, Mr. Andrews said.

Mr. Andrews timed his remarks as the 30th annual Earth Day events came to an end.

He said the county will keeping a sharp eye on trash haulers who litter near the transfer and recycling station between Rockville and Gaithersburg.

The biggest mess is at the transfer station, which also has an entrance for trash-hauling residents on Route 355 south of Shady Grove Road.

The county Department of Public Works and Transportation is responsible for enforcement of the anti-litter law there.

"We collected $4,500 in fines last month," said Director Al Gennetti, but that was mostly from commercial trash haulers, who certainly know the law.

Officials said some of the haulers are "repeat offenders." Most non-business haulers are warned but not fined.

County officials encourage residents to keep their properties neat by hauling trash to the transfer station. Solid Waste Director Art Balmer said 1,300 tons of trash are shipped by rail each day from the station to the incinerator at Dickerson in western Montgomery County.

Officials encourage use of the transfer station so residents do not dump trash and garbage along back roads and in isolated areas of the county.

The Shady Grove Alliance, a community association, has complained increasingly about littering.

"I drive Shady Grove Road a lot and see a lot of plastic bags and litter," Mr. Andrews said.

"We hope this will be a cost effective way to address this problem," said Mr. Andrews, adding that it was appropriate and timely to publicize the anti-litter problem on the anniversary of Earth Day, which encourages people to maintain a clean, healthful, natural environment.

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