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Litter problem in Johnson County continues to worsen

By Lacy Hilliard
Picture this; an out-of-towner headed to one of our surrounding cities decides to take a break from the interstate and instead opts for the back roads in an effort to view the beauty that Appalachia has to offer. As they make their way down the rhododendron speckled Scenic Highway 91, their ears are tuned into the soothing sounds of the inviting creek, and they decide to stop and enjoy a creekside picnic lunch. As they make their way down the embankment, a new scene is revealed to the tourist. The shoreline is littered with old tires, plastic bottles, beer cans, and a rusty muffler. The saddened traveler makes his way back to his vehicle, angered by the blatant lack of regard for the surrounding environment.
Litter is a huge problem in Johnson County. It’s difficult to go anywhere in our beautiful county without encountering some sort of environmental mayhem. With over 299 square miles of land and just over 18,000 residents, it’s hard to believe that littering has become such a widespread problem here. However, at last year’s Great American Cleanup, over three tons of trash was removed from this county alone; sad proof that litter is out of control in Johnson County.
Recognizing the littering epidemic not just in Johnson County but in all of Tennessee, lawmakers launched the Stop Litter program in 2006. The program is dedicated to raising awareness about this growing problem as well as providing residents with various solutions. The Litter Hotline allows citizens to anonymously report litterbugs either online at StopLitter.com or via telephone at 1-877-8-LITTER. The reported offender will receive a letter reminding them of the environmental impact of littering as well as reminding them that littering is illegal and can carry up to a $1,500 fine. StopLitter.com also provides a free downloadable campaign kit to help residents raise local awareness.
Johnson County residents are fortunate to have the use of prisoners for roadside cleanup; however the removal of litter is an expensive endeavor. Last year, Tennessee spent just over 11 million dollars in taxpayer money on litter removal. Cleanup crews all across the state drove over 12 million miles collecting roadside garbage. Taxpayers agree that this money could be better spent in schools or other social programs but because of the severity of the situation, the removal programs are necessary.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.