Illegal Dumping In Chemung County: It’s Got To Stop

“It’s so beautiful out here.”

That’s a statement I used to hear a lot, usually from someone who was lost and needed help finding their way back to Elmira, Horseheads, I86, etc. I’d point them in the right direction, and after a quick “thank you” they’d usually say how pretty our area is, then drive off to their destination. And it’s true. Chemung County is blessed with a beautiful rural landscape.

But unfortunately I don’t hear that a lot these days. That’s because there’s far too many in this county who don’t see it as a beautiful thing to be enjoyed and respected. They look at it as a place to dump their garbage and other unwanted items. This is nothing new of course, there’s always been those areas that people confuse for the county landfill. ( For the record folks, it’s in Lowman. Like Toucan Sam, just follow your nose, it’s easier to smell from miles away these days. ) There’s always been the beer cans, fast food wrappers, and so on that it’s apparently too difficult for some to dispose of properly.  But more and more it’s larger household items.

For example, just in the four to five mile stretch of Jerusalem Hill Road I drive each day, I can see: random couch cushions, a small recliner, a microwave and other assorted stuff over an embankment. Garbage bags in the trees. There’s a couch on the edge of another embankment ( so that’s where the cushions came from ) and if you stop and take a look over the bank, there’s years of stuff piled up there. Bags of household garbage, just tossed along the roadside without a care.

This isn’t just happening here in our part of the county, it’s everywhere. On nearly any given rural road in Chemung County, you’ll find broken televisions, computer monitors, construction debris and more. It’s not only disgusting, it’s infuriating, it’s… it’s sad. And it’s got to stop. 

And I can already hear the keyboard commandos out there, “So if you don’t like it, why don’t you clean it up?”

How do you know people aren’t? Look, it’s one thing to walk up and down the road picking up trash the local slobs toss our their car window. But how many stoves, televisions, etc can one person pick up? How many times can one person haul someone else’s garbage to the proper locations and pay to properly dispose of? It’s one thing to pay for a couple extra bags of garbage to be hauled away.

Local officials and law enforcement know it’s a problem, but it doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. I’ve brought it up over the years, and would love to help find a solution. But to be honest, I don’t have a lot of answers. Are people doing this because of the expense of taking it to the dump? Then maybe there’s a way municipalities can make it both easier and more affordable to dispose of an old couch, or a 55 inch tv that no longer works. Make it free somehow, hell, it’s got to be better than having dozens of mini landfills across the county.

Maybe the local road crews could clean this stuff up as it’s found, pile it up somewhere. Then, let’s find a way to catch the dirtbags doing it. Perhaps invest in some cameras ( Elmira just bought fifty for God’s sake ) and install them in places known to be a common problem area. I’d happily kick in for some up here in our section of the county. Then as a punishment the ones caught can pay for its disposal, even the stuff they didn’t illegally dump.

I don’t know folks, part of me thinks it’d still continue. Maybe there’s no cure for the slobbish behavior, the lack of respect for our hometowns. I don’t know…

To the slobs doing this, knock it off. If you want to live in filth, that’s your prerogative I suppose but do it in your own hovel. These hills are our home, and we’re tired of it. 

“It’s so beautiful out here.”

Well, it used to be.

Chris Sherwood writes from his home in North Chemung. He is the author of In Times of Trouble, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Upstate New York, and is currently working on the sequel. To learn more, go to 

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