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Knox County issues 150 violations for littering a year since hiring environmental officer

The county environmental officer investigates dumping sites and tracks large piles of litter back to their owners.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Around a year ago, Knox County hired an environmental officer. They were tasked with investigating large illegal dumping sites and tracking that litter back to its owners.

Since they started, they said 150 violations have been issued. They also said eight businesses were taken to court for illegal dumping. People who lost in court were fined and had to pick up litter for 40 hours.

"Don't litter. Keep it in your car, throw it in a trash can," Commissioner Carson Daily said. "It'll be about a $250 fine if you're caught throwing trash out with your name on it, you will be cited to court."

One of the most common ways the officer can find out who litter belongs to is by looking at receipts inside of it. They can connect the receipt to a person — especially if the receipt already has their name on it.

Daily also said tires are one of the most common kinds of litter. He said they tend to end up on the side of the road. Another common kind of litter is signs placed on roads or on utility poles, said Daily.

"We've been educating people. We're trying to tell that there are 100 million pieces of litter on Tennessee roads," said Daily. "If you'll notice around town, we have less signs in the right-of-ways now. It's worked well."

A new ordinance is also going into effect next year, requiring people to secure truck bed loads. They could get a $500 fine if it isn't properly secured. People can also report the license plate number of people they see littering on the road to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"I think it's looking better. The dumping has slowed down a lot since they know now, they will be caught and they will be taken to court," Daily said.

Knox County leaders said they are looking into hiring a second environment officer to help with patrols.

There are several ways to help. Keep Tennessee Beautiful and Adopt-A-Highway groups regularly organize local cleanup events for anyone who wants to participate.

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