Illegal dumping damages the entire community

Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder what people are thinking.

For example, how could someone think it would be OK to dump their trash on the side of the road? If they don't want those old tires sitting in their front yard, why would some other property owner want them?

We don't get that.

But then their actions aren't really thoughtless -- just selfish. Illegal dumpers know it's not OK, but they don't care about the law or their community. We're still left shaking our heads -- but more out of disgust than bewilderment.

This isn't a new problem to the Mid-Columbia. Remember the Bateman Island fires in August 2001? When the vegetation was burned off, 16 tons of litter was left exposed -- most of it beer bottles and some of them decades old.

But the problem does seem to be growing, perhaps because our population is growing.

Or perhaps it follows the broken-window theory, which holds that if you don't repair the first broken window, the whole neighborhood will succumb to crime and chaos.

So one tire left on the side of the road quickly attracts a couple hundred more tires ... and refrigerators and couches.

The good news in this story is that the community is picking up the mess, literally. Groups and businesses are volunteering their resources to get the Kennewick foothills cleaned up again.

The bad new is that this problem even exists in the Mid-Columbia.

The bicyclists who reported the problem did the right thing. People need to know when there is a community problem.

This cleanup quite literally is a grass-roots effort. In this situation we like the "ownership" these cyclists have taken for a problem they didn't create and doesn't directly affect them.

We also like that it gives us an opportunity to educate the community about what to do with our trash.

We suspect that most of us dispose of our waste improperly to some degree -- some of it through ignorance and some of it through belligerence.

In some cases people just don't know better, but mostly because they don't want to know.

For example, if you're tossing a used fluorescent lightbulb or an empty can of spray paint in the trash, you're really not doing the right thing. Those are supposed to go to a hazardous waste disposal site.

You're really not even supposed to wash your car in your driveway anymore.

It can be expensive to dispose of your trash properly. It also can be a hassle.

We need to take the extra steps to do it right. And, unfortunately, we need to keep an eye out for people who are doing it wrong.

While you don't necessarily own the property that is being fouled, you should take pride in a community that is clean, livable and inviting.

More needs to be done. Establishing a reward for reporting illegal dumping could help. So could strict enforcement of anti-littering laws.

Dumping is a crime that harms the entire community. Let's take it seriously.