Cook County is tackling the problem of fly dumping — illegal waste disposal — from a variety of angles. First came the carrot approach, with the opening of a new center for hard-to-recycle items.
Now comes the stick.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the board of commissioners, Forest Preserve District officials presented a proposal to increase fines and to add a provision that would allow the district to collect restitution from people caught trashing the preserves.
Fines currently max out at $500, a ceiling that would be raised to $750 if commissioners approve the proposal. Restitution to cover the district’s cost of restoring sites and properly disposing of waste would be tagged onto the fine, said Lisa Lee, chief attorney for the district.
Construction debris, tires, electronics, landscape waste, paint and solvents are among the items most commonly dumped, she said, and the district spends “significant” dollars to clean up the mess.
Adding restitution to the penalty is designed to discourage people who might otherwise consider the fine alone the cost of doing business.
“We want to make sure we have enough teeth in our enforcement,” Arnold Randall, general superintendent of the district, told commissioners.
Forest preserve police officers said the size of the district’s land holdings — some 70,000 acres — makes it tough to nab people in the act of dumping but they’ve been able to track people down via license plates photographed on the scene and occasionally individuals give themselves away, accidentally leaving things like receipts behind with the trash.
“When we do catch them, we will prosecute as fully as possible,” Randall said.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposal at a future board meeting.