Illegal Dump FaQ

What is considered an illegal dumpsite?

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful considers an area of concentrated trash a dumpsite. We also assess areas that may become concentrated areas of trash, as trash attracts trash. If a site contains isolated or solitary items, such as 1 or 2 appliances or tires, we consider it a site and include it in the survey.We also consider it a dumpsite if a site just contains yard waste. While yard waste will eventually breakdown and isn’t a detriment to the environment, this site may become attractive to dumpers that have more hazardous materials to dump. We also include areas of scattered trash, more than what is considered roadside litter (bottles, fast food wrappers, etc.), that appear to have new trash thrown on them occasionally.

Do we include private and/or farm dumps in the survey?

No. If a person is dumping on their own land, whether it is in the front yard of a house in a city neighborhood or on a farmstead in the countryside, we do not assess it or include it in our survey. To remain consistent across all counties, we only assess sites that are off the public right-of-way and there is a victim involved. There are many times when the surveyor is not able to distinguish between a private site and an illegal dumpsite. In these cases, the site is surveyed and sent to the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful office where, based on the data gathered and photos taken, it is determined whether to include it in the final report as an illegal dumpsite. If a dumpsite in a published report is found to be a private or farm dumpsite, the site is immediately removed from the report.

How does Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful survey counties?

Prior to surveying, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful contacts municipalities and other stakeholders including watershed groups, local conservation districts, and local and county officials to introduce the survey program and request the location of known sites. Surveyors then drive every public roadway in the county looking for known and unknown sites. When a site is found, the surveyor completes a standardized assessment form that collects information including the site location, area details, terrain, history, contents, and size. Photos are taken of the site and a GPS unit is used to get latitude and longitude coordinates. This information is sent to the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful office and the data is reviewed and combined to produce a report. Surveyors stay within the public right-of-way while they do the assessment and do not go into the dumpsite.

When does surveying occur and how long does the entire survey process take?

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful surveys in the fall when the ground foliage dissipates. On some occasions, we have surveyed in the spring before ground foliage develops. We do not survey when there is significant snow cover or when foliage gets high enough to block views of sites. A survey takes about one year to complete from start (getting municipality information, hiring and training surveyors, etc.) to finish (publication of report).

What is done with the data that is gathered?

The survey can be a valuable tool that can be used for planning within the community. It can provide valuable insight into development or expansion of solid waste and recycling programs, gain support for funding for public awareness programs and education, and generate funds to clean the existing dumpsites. The surveys help us understand the scope of illegal dumping in Pennsylvania. It is with this understanding; constituents can begin addressing the problem through public policy, resource allocation, community education, and cleanups. As an example, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful published the Berks County Illegal Dump Survey report in June of 2008. A total of 100 sites were identified containing an estimated 184.75 tons of trash. Of the 74 communities in Berks County, 33 had illegal dumping activity. Upon publication of this report, the Berks County Solid Waste Authority immediately began working with these communities to begin the task of cleaning each and every dumpsite. They hope to have every dumpsite cleaned by the Spring of 2009.

What if I can’t find a dump site that is listed in the survey?

Thousands of dumpsites have been found since we began the Illegal Dump Survey Program in 2004. The first report was published in 2005. Over that time, a site could have been dumped on, cleaned, dumped on, and cleaned again. What is in the report is what was found the day the surveyor was on that particular road. So, if you can’t find a site, perhaps it has been cleaned. Another factor is foliage. Trying to find a dumpsite in late spring through early fall when foliage is high is sometimes difficult. The best time to look is when the foliage is low. If you can’t find a site and want specific GPS coordinates, call Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful at 1-877-772-3673.

Can you provide examples of what a dumpsite looks like and the tonnage of the site?

Hesser Gap
Mifflin County
28.6 tons of trash
26.8 tons of scrap
1,543 tires