Debate Over Burning Trash - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/8/05-Smith County

Debate Over Burning Trash

They see the issue of trash burning very differently.

"Burning trash, household trash, as long as it's done in accordance of the provisions of the Health and Safety Code is allowed," says Smith County Judge Becky Dempsey.

"One burn barrel puts out more pollutants than 40 vehicles. It's an environmental issue more than anything else," says Precinct 2 Constable Frank Creath. Litter abatement officers say anything outside of paper being burned lets off toxins. So it's no surprise to them the complaints have been coming in. "Because the smell is just horrendous. Really, you can imagine burning old food stuffs and baby diapers?" says Creath.

So what needs to be done about it? The law reads: Each county with more than 30,000 residents and each municipality shall review and assure that solid waste management services are provided by a public agency, or a private person.

To the constable that means: "The Texas legislature saw fit that counties over 30,000 would have a organized, recognized garbage pick up for the people in any county with over 30,000 population, smith county's failed to do that." And he says a county trash pick-up would eliminate the illegal burning.

But after reading the same law, commissioners believe forming a trash pick-up doesn't fall on the shoulders of the county.

"And based on what I've read and what I heard from our attorneys, the attorneys that advise the County Judge and Commissioners Association, the county is not obligated to provide that service," says Dempsey.

Right now commissioners are waiting on the opinion of the state attorney general to clarify the laws. Until then, how to put a stop to it remains in question.

Christine Nelson reporting.

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