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Page 8 ■ Thursday, April 5, 2012


What stinks? Bizarre trash collects

near oil patch

By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press

TIOGA — Along the wide-open ex- panses and rolling prairie of western North Dakota surrounding the state’s booming oil patch, all sorts of bizarre litter can be found clogging the once picturesque roadside: Derelict hardhats, single boots, buckets, pallets, pieces of machinery,

clothing, cigarette butts. The worst? Plastic jugs of urine

shredded semi tires, oily

pitched out windows as scores of truck- ers pass through oil country. Litter has become an escalating

North Dakota Motor Carriers Associa- tion. “It is a huge issue, but one of the big-

gest problems is there isn’t lot of places for these guys stop to properly dispose of the receptacles,” Balzer said. “I don’t know that it’s a case of being disrespect- ful but of the unbelievable growth out there.”

problem as the rush to tap vast caches of crude escalates in North Dakota. As the number of trucks coming to the oil mecca increases, so does the trash. Some of the industrial rubbish blows in from unsecured truckloads, but for many, the most frustrating trash is the gallons of discarded urine. The problem has local leaders and

ise of prosperity to the state but it also has radically altered its landscape and culture. Nodding donkey pumps now rise from the once barren prairie, and there’s been an infl ux of thousands of outsiders seeking their fortune in the oil patch. North Dakota has leapfrogged past a half-dozen states since 2006 to be- come the nation’s No. 3 oil producer, and state offi cials estimate North Dakota will surpass Alaska and will trail only Texas within a year. That’s the reason truck traffi c has

rural residents scratching their heads. There’s no money to build new rest stops, and once-eager community volunteers are less willing to pick up junk now be- cause they don’t want to handle human waste. So little has been done to address the problem, save for upgrading mowing tractors with cabs to protect operators from getting sprayed with urine when the jugs are hit by a wheel or blade. “I don’t know if it can be solved other

than by people having some respect, be- cause right now the countryside is being taken for granted,” said Tioga Mayor Na- than Germundson. “It’s a growing prob- lem and it’s sad.” The jugs are known around these parts

The oil rush has brought the prom-


surged. The number of trucking com- panies operating in North Dakota in- creased by 600 last year to about 6,000, with most working in the oil patch, Bal- zer said. Nearly 100 new trucking com- panies were established in January alone, he said. Catching urine-tossing truckers is dif-

fi cult, according to authorities. Troopers issued an average of a dozen littering tickets annually in western North Dakota over the past three years, up from about seven in the three years before that. “We have to be in the right place at

Associated Press

TOP: A discarded bottle fi lled with urine lays on the side of Highway 85 near Williston, N.D. BELOW: A large oil container, bucket, a bag of trash and a bottle of discarded urine lay in a gully along Highway 85 near Williston, N.D.

as “trucker bombs,” and they freckle the countryside. They show up in a variety of containers: antifreeze jugs, beverage bottles or milk cartons, and are usually hurled by drivers too hurried or weak- bladdered to stop and relieve themselves politely. Of course, there’s a reason they’re

the right time,” North Dakota Highway Patrol Lt. Jody Skogen said. “When a squad car is behind a driver, they are not as inclined to chuck something out the window.” Even if they do catch someone in the

thrown in the fi rst place. There are only three rest stops along the hundreds of miles of highway in western North Da- kota, and all are well outside the busiest areas of the state’s oil patch. Until there are more truck stops or rest areas on the much-traveled route, the jugs will prob- ably still be tossed by truckers, said Tom Balzer, executive vice president of the

act, the penalties aren’t high. The Trans- portation Department unsuccessfully pushed legislation more than a decade ago that would have bumped fi nes from $20 to $500 on anyone caught dumping human waste on the roadside. The agen- cy intended to post roadside signs saying it was illegal to throw human waste on the road or ditch, and advertise the $500 fi ne. But lawmakers decided the signs would be off-putting and killed the leg- islation. Tioga citizens, fed up by littered road-

Membership in the state’s Adopt-a- Highway program has dropped in the area, and the jugs of urine may be partly to blame, said Walt Peterson, a Trans- portation Department district engineer in Williston. Even though state offi cials recommend that volunteers stay clear of the jugs and leave them to state mainte- nance crews to clean up, volunteering is a tough sell. For one, the jugs are repulsive. Two,

they can explode under pressure from heat. “The membership is down and they’re

ways leading to their town, cleaned up part of the highway south of the city last spring. In less than one mile, volunteers

older,” Peterson said. “They don’t want to pick up that much stuff and there is too much dangerous stuff like needles and urine jugs.” Peterson said his agency and local

offi cials formed a group in February to address the litter issue in and around

picked up more than two heaping truck- loads of rubbish. But such efforts are tough to sustain.

the city. Part of the plan calls for com- panies working in the oil patch to pay student groups to pick up the trash. So far, no one has signed on. But at least two companies have volunteered to pick up garbage along stretches of highways in Dickinson and Watford City, said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Pe- troleum Council. Gary Evans, treasurer of the local Li- ons Club in Stanley, said his group has been picking up trash along roadsides for more than 20 years. He said the club has about 15 active trash pickers and all are retirement age. Evans said he has picked up his share

of urine jugs over the years and the amount has increased. Volunteers wear gloves and carefully handle the urine containers. Evans says he’s fortunate never to have been showered with an ex- ploding jug of urine. “The ditches are full of them,” he said.

“It’s pathetic.”

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