In the span of five days, Jon Merryman came across two large piles of illegally dumped blue crabs along Race Road in Elkridge.
Over the years, Merryman, a Catonsville resident, has “found a bushel here, half a bushel there” of dumped crabs from Halethorpe to Linthicum to Hanover, but he had never seen dumped bushels of such high quantities until last week. A bushel has between six and seven dozen crabs, according to Merryman.
“I’ve found them a lot scattered [about]. You smell them first and then you stop and look,” he said.
Merryman, 56, found the first pile — about four bushels of crabs — on his way to work at Lockheed Martin on July 31. He found the latest pile on Race Road about 200 yards north of Hanover Road.
On Sunday, Merryman grabbed a snow shovel and set out to clean up the pile he had found last week. He spends hundreds of hours each year on his own cleaning up the Patapsco Valley area.
However, on his way there, he began to smell yet another pile of illegally dumped crabs. The new pile, located in a ditch near 6264 Race Road, was three times the size of last week’s pile, Merryman said.
“Tons of uncooked crabs — never cooked, never eaten and never sold, which seems like a huge waste,” Merryman said.
He said the crabs should end up in landfills.
At the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, crab shells and waste are processed with other household waste, according to Jeffery Dannis, the operations division chief of Howard County’s bureau of environmental services.
Residents who order and eat crabs often throw out the remains in their household trash, Dannis said.
“We have one restaurant owner who brings us crab waste weekly,” Dannis said in an email. “This material is directly deposited into the waste trailers that haul waste for disposal at a permitted landfill in Virginia.”
The landfill does not receive “raw or live materials from roadside stands or commercial establishments” from regular customers, Dannis said.
Cleaning up the crabs is not an easy task, Merryman said. After cleaning up the smaller pile and bagging all the crabs for an hour, he walked over to the ditch. However, he did not clean up the larger quantity of crabs there, saying he would if he had help.
“Finding a tire is no big deal; been hauling those out for years. But crabs are not easy to clean up, even the bags have flies buzzing around them,” he said.
Merryman said Howard County is good about picking up the bagged trash he collects and places along county roads.
Maryland Natural Resources Police are investigating the initial crab dumping. It is unclear if the police are also investigating the pile Merryman found Sunday.
Lt. Catherine Medellin, an NRP spokeswoman, said the investigation is ongoing and there are no updates at this time.
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Dumping crabs is the same as littering or dumping trash, Medellin said.