Peg Boarman talks a lot of trash.
Boarman, an 81-year-old James City County resident, is a regular speaker at the monthly Board of Supervisors meetings, giving consistent updates on the county’s fight against litter.
She calls it “talking trash.”
This month, she had a positive report: The amount of litter throughout James City County has decreased.
“Maybe me going to the Board of Supervisors meeting once a month to talk my trash has had an impact,” Boarman said. “Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s working.”
In October, six volunteers including Boarman hopped into a van and spent a full day riding around the county, taking “inventory” of the litter along the roadways.
The van ride is organized once a year to conduct the annual litter survey. Each of the six passengers rate 50 sections of roadway on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 indicating minimal litter and 4 an abundance.
This year’s results gave the county an average score of 1.37, compared to 1.58 in 2017 and 1.66 in 2016.
“I know that several people have said to me ‘When I see trash now, I cringe or pick it up,” Boarman said.
Years in the making
Locality affiliates of national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful are required to conduct an annual litter survey.
To do the survey, James City County Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Dawn Oleksy identifies 50 one-mile stretches of road to rate, dividing them evenly by which watershed they are in.
There are five watersheds in James City County: Ware Creek, Diascund Creek Reservoir, Gordon Creek, Powhatan Creek and Skiffes Creek.
The 50 one-mile stretches are also proportional to the type of land in James City County, as well. They span industrial, residential, rural, agricultural and commercial areas.
The volunteers in the van then eyeball the designated stretches of road and give them a rating from 1 to 4.
“It’s very subjective,” Oleksy said.
Trash tossed from moving cars isn’t the only problem: Illegal dumping also occurs in remote corners of the county.
Oleksy said illegal dumping of old furniture and other trash has been a problem in various areas of the county at dead end roads, near pump stations and in industrial parks.
Boarman added the litter was very noticeable in the Grove area of the county, but she was surprised when the Stonehouse District in the upper county also had recurring illegal dumping.
Olseky said the county has curbed some illegal dumping by chaining off roads into an industrial park that was a frequent target and placing some signs at other common dumpsites.
“One of the things I have seen is that some of the illegal dumping we had going on, we didn’t find so much of that,” Boarman said. “And I haven’t had people calling me as much (about litter).”
Pushing for change
Both Boarman and Oleksy believe the gradual decrease in litter is a result of increasing community awareness and a zero-tolerance policy.
In June, the county passed the Zero Tolerance for Litter Policy, which says “special attention” will be given to vehicles hauling unsecured loads, illegal dumping and improperly discarded cigarettes.
“Litter is not tolerated in James City County,” Oleksy said. “The police do not tolerate it.”
VDOT cleans up litter on state roads on a quarterly basis, but Oleksy said the county has had to subsidize these cleanups and implement five more, costing the county $75,000.
Volunteers also clean up dumpsites and other litter during their annual spring cleanup.
Boarman has been chairwoman of the Clean County Commission for two years, and considers fighting litter a passion project.
Despite the reassuring results of this year’s litter survey, Boarman’s job isn’t done yet.
“Some people are starting to call me the queen of trash,” she said.
Questions about litter? Contact Oleksy at 757-259-5375.