Keep Union County Beautiful Brings Awareness to Litter

Tammie Carter, director of Keep Union County Beautiful

When Tammie Carter thinks about litter and illegal dumping in Union County, she likes to look on the bright side. It's a problem, and a big one, but year by year, things are getting better.

"I don't know that we'll ever solve it or get people to stop doing it, but hopefully it will be minimal one day," she said.

Carter is a deputy assessor in the Union County Property Assessor's office. Since 2015, she's been director of Keep Union County Beautiful, an organization that's been fighting litter in Union County since 2002. KUCB has been in the spotlight in recent weeks as Carter's posts on the group's Facebook page caught countywide attention. The posts feature photos of unsightly litter and illegal dumpsites. While some of the attention has been negative, Carter said it's also sparked interest in community clean-ups.

"I honestly think it's the Facebook. It's bringing more awareness to it. People need to see those pictures," she said. "People see it and realize it's a problem. It makes people mad. We have almost 1,000 followers now."

Even though she sees the litter problem getting a little better each year, Carter said she still gets calls about illegal dumpsites "almost every day."

"They will sometimes be within a mile or two from a convenience center," she said. "It boggles the mind."

When those calls come in, Carter contacts Union County's Litter Officer, Brett Pursel, who is part of the Union County Sheriff's Office. If the dumpsite isn't on private property, and if Pursel and a crew of inmate workers can get to it, they go out and clean it up. In the past six months, Pursel and the inmates have cleaned up about five illegal dumpsites, Carter said. Sometimes, Pursel finds evidence in the trash that allows him to prosecute the people who dumped it.

"He does wonderful work," said Carter. "I can't say enough good about Brett. He's dedicated and wonderful. He'll go pretty much right then and pick it up."

But, Carter said that there's not much to be done about litter and trash on private property since Union County's current dirty lot ordinance involves "such a lengthy process."

"Hopefully in the future there will be one that's more cut and dried," she said.

Carter said battling litter and illegal dumps isn't just about environmentalism, it's about taking pride in where you live.

"We get a lot of visitors to this county from all over the world, and to me, is the trash on the side of the road the impression we want them to take back to wherever they're from?" she said. "With all this rain we've been having, it's more noticeable right now, and all that stuff washes down and in a lot of places ends up in the lake. I see coves that are just covered in trash."

Carter encouraged everyone to take part in the countywide KUCB clean-up, set for April 21, or to pick up litter when they can.

"Anybody can pick up their road," she said. "You don't have to wait for a countywide clean-up."

She said Warwick's Chapel Church recently did their own clean-up, and folks in Plainview and Sharps Chapel have expressed interest, too. People can call the Property Assessor's office or the Mayor's office, and KUCB will provide equipment like bags, gloves, pickers and vests. She's been attending neighborhood watch meetings to promote the countywide clean-up, and she and Pursel are planning school outreach activities this spring.

KUCB also administers the Adopt-A-Road program, a two-year contract with a business, organization or group, to pick up trash along a stretch of road four times each year. Right now, 25 groups are participating in the program, including the Union County Business and Professional Association.

For more information about KUCB and the county-wide clean-up, call 865-992-1209 or visit https://www.facebook.com/keepunioncountybeautiful.

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Keep up the good work. If every church youth group would participate, that would really help and I'll bet God would smile!

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