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While more people have been staying home, Carroll County landfills have experienced a recent influx of visitors, raising concerns about how to provide an essential service while limiting potential exposure to the coronavirus.
During a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners held remotely through the internet March 26, Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, expressed concern over the increase of people at landfills.
“I believe they saw upwards of 1,000 people last weekend,” he said. “Seeing 1,000 people means they actually interacted with those [dump staff] folks.”
On March 27, the county issued a news release recommending customers pay by credit card only at the Northern Landfill and discouraging trips that are not immediately necessary.
“To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community, residents and businesses of Carroll County are asked to avoid all non-essential outings and close contact,” the release reads. “Also, although the Northern Landfill remains open, residents with non-perishable waste not requiring immediate disposal, are asked to not bring it to the county solid waste facilities at this time.”
The release suggests waiting until the state of emergency is lifted or contracting with a local hauler to dispose of waste and recycling. A list of licensed haulers can be found on the county’s website at County Residential Curb-side Haulers or through your local phone directory.
Health professionals and public officials are urging people to practice social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19, and to stay six feet apart when around others.
Dwight Amoss, county landfill manager, said 631 paying customers drove across the scales at the Northern Landfill to drop off trash March 21, and 278 did the same at Hoods Mill. That does not count those who came to dispose of recycling, metal or yard waste, he said.
“This place has been a madhouse ever since they started shutting things down,” Amoss said in an interview. “It can be a little stressful.”
Looking around the Northern Landfill on Thursday afternoon, Amoss said he saw seven pickup trucks in line waiting to dispose of waste by the dumpster area, as well as about 14 people unloading at the yard waste pile.
Spring is usually the busiest time of year anyway, Amoss said, but he believes it’s busier than usual because of COVID-19. He suspects people stuck at home are cleaning more inside their homes and out in their yards, especially if they are unable to work.
Cliff Engle, bureau chief of solid waste, agreed with Amoss.
“More people are home and we believe that’s part of the contributing factor to the traffic being increased at the landfill,” Engle said in an interview.
Amoss and Engle said they’ve heard concerns from staff who interact with the public at the landfills. Engle said the closest interactions occur when customers make payments after weighing their waste.
Employees are sanitizing the facility and keeping their distance from others when they can, according to Engle. He said they want to keep staff and customers safe.
“It’s definitely uncharted territory we’re all trying to work in,” he said.
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Wantz also attributed the increase to people spending more time at home.
“We’re cleaning out closets, we’re getting things done around the home that we typically wouldn’t do as we’re all working,” he said. “We can’t close the landfill, so we’ve got to make some very different decisions out there."
Staff are developing alternative methods to keep landfill employees and customers safe, according to Wantz.