Ohio Attorney General Yost Unveils Statewide Initiative to Crack Down on Polluters

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and his Environmental Enforcement team have unveiled a $1.1 million initiative to help communities statewide crack down on polluters.

“Shine a Light on Dumpers” is a multi-faceted initiative to stop illegal open dumping of solid waste in Ohio neighborhoods, including scrap tires, construction refuse, and more.

Illegal dumping is the term used to describe disposing of waste in unauthorized areas. It is an environmental crime. Depending on the circumstances, charges can range from a misdemeanor to felony and the fines can be quite heavy.

The Ohio Revised Code prohibits littering, regardless of whether or not it was intentional. Numerous laws prohibit littering and illegal dumping in the state. Penalties for illegal dumping run up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail.

According to Yost, this initiative will “help communities statewide crack down on polluters who use their backyard – or someone else’s property – as an enormous garbage can.”

According to the City of Columbus, illegal dumping has a significant impact on neighborhoods, quality of life, safety, public health, roads, waterways, wild life and the environment, economy and tourism.

According to the Environmental Crimes Task Force (ECTF) funded by SWACO, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio. Since 2016, the ECTF dealt with more than 6,000 cases.

Statistics from the Columbus Department of Public Service show 6,143 tons of illegally dumped trash picked up in 2019.  In 2020, even more trash was collected. A total of 6,540 tons.  Numbers fell slightly in 2021 to 5,298 tons of illegal material collected.

The Shine a Light on Dumpers campaign will be implemented in stages, starting with new web resources that emphasize awareness, legal advice, instruction, and investigative support from the Attorney General’s Office.

The Environmental Enforcement Unit of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. and the Criminal Prosecution Unit are two units under the Environmental Enforcement Section of the attorney general’s office that handle environmental crimes throughout the state.

While the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources frequently refer cases to the units, they also work closely with local law enforcement, and prosecutor’s offices are available to assist with investigations and prosecutions in cases of solid waste dumping upon request.

Another component of the initiative’s first phase will begin in July when specialists start giving monthly seminars to law enforcement officials, including police officers, sheriff’s deputies, sanitarians, code enforcers, and prosecutors, around the state. Participants will get the necessary legal framework for prosecuting environmental crimes, and understand the best ways to investigate instances of open dumping and open burning of solid wastes, as well as other environmental offenses.

According to Yost, this initiative aims to inform Ohioans about how to combat the problem of dumping.

“We want local law enforcement, prosecutors, and the public to know what they can do to combat the unsightly and unhealthy problem of dumping – and how my office can help them. It’s time to reclaim our communities from these polluters,” Yost said.

Shine a Light on Dumpers will receive $1.1 million from the proceeds of a Volkswagen settlement, with the majority of the funds going toward the project’s second phase. Attorney General Yost has put aside this money.

Phase 2 will concentrate on providing law enforcement organizations that are fighting solid-waste dumping in their areas with technical equipment.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Dave Yost” by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by General Ization. CC BY 3.0.


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