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Remote camera catching illegal dumpers on DNR land

If you're dumping trash and yard waste in remote areas of Clallam County such as state Department of Natural Resources land, Sheriff Bill Benedict has a message for you:

Don't.

Using a state grant, Benedict installed an automatic camera in the Johnson Creek area four months ago. So far, it has caught seven people driving in with full trailers or trucks - and later driving out with them empty.

Johnson Creek Road runs south off Happy Valley Road and borders DNR land.

"The theme is 'Smile, you're on camera,'" Benedict said.

"The goal is compliance. You know you shouldn't be doing it. We just want to put a stop to it."

By state law, illegal dumping is a Class 3 civil infraction with a $200 fine. Violators can either pay the cleanup costs or $100 per cubic foot.

Benedict said using their license plate information, he has contacted five of the seven people and they cleaned up what they dumped.

"People were told the camera would be here. I just want the dumping to stop. I just want people to remove the trash they dumped and show me a ticket from the landfill," Benedict said.

"I'm just looking for voluntary compliance. I'm not looking to wreck someone's life by fining them $3,000 because they were too lazy to take something to the dump. I just want it to stop."

A lot of the illegally

dumped stuff is yard waste, which may seem benign but really is unsightly and contains vermin and invasive species, Benedict said.

"This is not the appropriate place for yard waste," he said.

The sheriff's office has obtained a grant for another camera that he hasn't picked a location for yet, Benedict said.

He got the idea to install the camera after hearing repeated comments from the chain gang that takes tons of illegally dumped trash out of the state Department of Natural Resources lands every year, Benedict said.

DNR Straits District manager Brian Turner said the agency has had problems with illegal dumping on its Clallam County lands for years.

DNR usually cleans up its lands once in the spring and once in the winter, but that's not often enough, he said.

"This time it was the landowners who were concerned about the activities going on there.

"So the sheriff talked to DNR enforcement officer Jared Eison and asked if there was a good spot for a camera. We agreed the county could do it," Turner said.

"There's quite a few trouble spots; with the budget problems there's fewer people to address problems in the woods, such as wood theft and dumping of old cars."

Turner also said people who come across illegal dumps should be careful because items such as empty cold/flu medicine packages, propane tanks, laboratory equipment and batteries could be from an abandoned methamphetamine lab.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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