The county is cracking down on illegal dumping.
"It has always been a problem," said Rick Harris, environmental superintendent for Santa Rosa County. "So many people take advantage of the recycling sites."
The unintended refuse adds up, not only to the recycling sites, but to the taxpayer as well.
"It costs money to get the garbage out of there," Harris said. "It's material that should have gone to the landfill and been paid for on the scales."
The exact costs are uncertain, but Harris said there is a definite strain on manpower and space in the containers. He estimated illegal refuse contributes three to four tons a week and costs $1,000 a week in manpower and fuel to sort and transport the trash to proper facilities.
There is one person who maintains upkeep at the 19 recycling sites scattered throughout the county, according to Harris. Her main job is to check the sites to ensure cooperation between the contractor and the county. While onsite, she has the opportunity to enact and educate about proper procedure.
Harris explained sometimes a person might not be fully aware of the accepted materials. In situations where the signage may be misleading she tries to be understanding.
"The officers do a fantastic job with the illegal dumping," Harris said. "If we get a tag number or a lead, we do contact an officer and in most cases try to make contact with them."
Incriminating behavior and information about illegal dumping is passed on to the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office for enforcement. Deputy Jeannie Schmitt follows up on and investigates complaints as part of the Environmental Enforcement department.
"It's a criminal offense," Schmitt said. "It's not difficult to enforce with the right probable cause."
Illegal dumping at the recycling sites is a punishable offense under a Florida statute. There is a municipal code violation as well, but officers give citations and can make arrests under the state statute.
"Anyone found leaving unregulated items will be issued a $105 citation," Schmitt said. "Over 15 pounds, it's a first-degree misdemeanor. And for anything over 500 pounds, it's actually a third-degree felony."
Some landlords have cleaned out properties leaving various refuse at recycling sites, and furniture such as couches and mattresses are a common hindrance, according to the deputy.
Schmitt has been with the department for four and a half years and says she has seen the public is getting better at watching their recycling sites.
Sidebar: Recycling Locations
Allentown - Central High School
Jay & Fidelis -
Munson, between Fire Station and Forestry Office
Fidelis Community Cener
Jay Industrial Park
Midway Area -
South Service Center - Highway 98, east side of zoo
Milton Area -
East Milton Recreation Park
Gulf Power Substation, 5673 Stewart Street
Recycle Innovation Station, site for Old Milton Fire Station
NAS Whiting Field -
Pace Area -
Pace Fire Station
Woodbine Road, across from Pace Water Office