Seashore Dumping May Be Related To Pandemic Trash Changes

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Cape Cod National Seashore , COVID-19

Dumping of trash in Cape Cod National Seashore is an emerging concern.  NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO

ORLEANS — 

The pandemic, which has altered familiar patterns at transfer stations in Chatham, Harwich, Orleans, and elsewhere, may have prompted dumping in the wilds of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Last week, the Seashore reported construction materials dumped near Doane Rock in Eastham and household trash found at Great Island in Wellfleet. “This is a challenging time for everyone, including the national seashore,” Superintendent Brian Carlstrom said in a press release. “Following guidance from the administration, CDC public health guidance, and the governor’s orders, we are maintaining essential functions with a small staff at the seashore. We do not have the resources to address these careless acts.”

In addition to the dumping, those acts include “pets on trails, in shorebird areas, and off leash; and bicycles, dirt bikes, and ATVs on trails,” according to Carlstrom. “We will issue citations to those who do not follow regulations, and we may be forced to close areas of the seashore if violations continue.”

Attempts to reach the Seashore for further comment by press time were unsuccessful.

The public health crisis has kept town transfer station personnel busy trying to maintain six feet of separation between customers. In Harwich, the town’s COVID-19 response team shut down construction, demolition debris, and yard waste disposal and metal recycling. The team lifted that order Monday, according to DPW Director Link Hooper, who said staff is now “posted in three areas to help ensure social distancing.”

Two weeks ago, the disposal area transitioned temporarily to single-stream recycling to cut down on the number of interactions at individual materials stations.

Chatham has been accepting most items for disposal or recycling, with the exception of light bulbs, used oil, and food waste, DPW laborer Stephen Naylor said Monday. That may be why employees counted 767 cars passing through the facility Sunday, which Naylor said was closer to summer numbers. Chatham has also shuttered its Scouts shed for recyclable bottles and its swap shop.

Orleans has been riding the waves of change for several weeks. “The first thing we did was close the gift house,” DPW Director Tom Daley said. “That came from the gift house workers. They could not get six feet of separation there.”

Daley credits DPW staff with ideas for new procedures. “They put the credit card machine outside the gatehouse so you can use it without interacting with the staff,” he said. “Then they put (sawhorses) to create travel ways for people to walk to the recycling areas and stay six feet apart. They spend time out there explaining things to people.”

Some Cape communities, such as Barnstable, have suspended their recycling programs, but Orleans is still taking household trash and recyclables. “We did have to shut down C&D (construction and demolition debris), bulky items, and metal areas a couple of weeks ago,” Daley said. “I don’t have enough staff to watch them all the time. We put up signs, but people were dropping and taking materials and not social distancing” Also remaining closed is the bottle redemption area.

Whenever increases for transfer station stickers are discussed, you’ll hear concerns about people skipping the trip to the dump and heading for the woods with their goods. In Orleans, which increased its sticker fee this year, Daley hasn’t heard of any problems.

“No, knock on wood,” he said. “We haven’t had calls to pick up anything. In my entire career, I’ve found that people want to do the right thing.”