Base officials ask public to report illegal dumping by lake

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Air Force officials are asking users of Woods Reservoir to report people illegally littering and dumping in and around the lake.

Illegal dumping near the dam at Woods Reservoir, a popular place to fish, was recently brought to the attention of base leadership, who immediately took action to mitigate the health and safety risks it posed to the public.

Col. Robert Bender, the Arnold Engineering Development Center's (AEDC) new 704th Mis¬sion Support Group commander, toured the area to see the situation firsthand.

"I saw an area that was absolutely disgusting; it was just full of trash, including everything from bags of open rubbish to abandoned furniture. There was trash and glass all down the sides of the dam that are in the fishing areas," he said.

"The public and base employees who use Woods Reser¬voir for fishing and boating deserve a clean and safe place to enjoy themselves. We work hard to keep the lake, beaches, horse paths, bike trails and all public use areas on base clean and safe for people to enjoy, but we need some help with this."

Colonel Bender said he would like for everyone to follow the popular standard, 'leave it a little better than you found it.'

"We plan to keep our facilities open to everyone," he continued. "All I ask of people is that they maintain the same stan¬dard I ask of all our Airmen, civil servants and great contractors who work out here.

When people don't do that, we have to suspend access to those areas and clean them up. That's why the road leading to the dam is closed, but the area is still open for the fishermen. We've had to work hard and expend taxpayer resources to clean the area up and we want to keep it that way so everyone can benefit."

A dumpster is available near the dam to help keep the area clean, but not as a place to dispose of household trash, old furniture, chemicals or appliances - those items need to go to an appropriate disposal facility.

"I ask that if people see someone dump¬ing trash on base anywhere, especially in public recreation areas, to please contact our police forces," Colonel Bender said.

"People do not need to engage the offend¬ers, but just report it promptly and provide a license plate number if possible. We can all work together to keep this the beautiful place that it is. We expect everyone to be good stewards of our natural resources."

AEDC Police Chief Richard Trull said the problem of illegal dumping is not new, but has got¬ten to the point where action has become unavoidable. A barricade has been placed to prevent vehicles from driving to the affected area, according to Chief Trull.

"If we keep vehicles out of the area," he said, "we will hopefully stop the illegal dumping of large amounts of trash people are leav¬ing there. It's unfortunate that the bad behavior of a few is impacting law-abiding folks, which is why we encourage people to report illegal activity."

The impact of littering and il¬legal dumping goes beyond just having to clean up, too, Chief Trull added.

"The really unfortunate thing is that dumping has unacceptable consequences to the land, to the environment, and to the safety and health of the public," he said.

Maj. James Kennedy, AEDC Staff Judge Advocate, explained some of the potential legal conse¬quences for those who dump trash illegally on Arnold might face.

"Naturally, base security is au¬thorized to arrest those who dump trash on base property and those offenders risk being fined and face possible jail time, depending on what was dumped," he said. "They could be looking at an arrest, a fine, potential jail time and also could be barred from base. The bottom line - littering has serious consequences.

"We're talking about people who are using Arnold as a landfill to dispose of whatever trash they have or large objects they want to get rid of. If it involves chemicals or anything that could damage the environment in a long-term way, you've got a whole different set of statutes that would apply, with more serious consequences, to include 'real' jail time."

Major Kennedy emphasized the gravity of the problem and its potential consequences.

"We've had folks on other bases that have dumped chemicals into lakes, who have served several years in jail for that. They don't mess around with that for a good reason.

When you dump something into the lake, you're ruining the lake for everybody, and we won't tolerate that. That type of crime is not just at the state level, that gets the federal folks involved, that gets the Department of Justice involved. To my knowledge, we haven't had any of that, but that would certainly ratchet up the consequences.

Anyone who observes illegal dumping activity on base should contact base security at (931) 454-5662.