Dump furniture illegally, face up to $2,500 fine in Rutherford County’s new Environmental Court

Rutherford County TN (5/14/2018) – A Rutherford County Environmental Court that starts June 6 at the Judicial Center will rule on fines and jail time for illegal dumping and burning.

Violators caught illegally burning, dumping TVs or building brush piles in drainage easements could face punishments through a new Rutherford County Environmental Court.

“A sofa and a recliner (dumped from a pickup) would get you a $2,500 fine,” County Solid Waste Director Mac Nolen said.

Punishments can range from a $50 fine for littering trash out of automobile windows to even jail time, said Nolen, who will be among the county officials prosecuting violators in Environmental Court.

General Sessions Court Judge Lisa Eischeid will preside over the initial Environmental Court docket at 1 p.m. June 6 at the new Judicial Center on Lytle Street a block north of the Square in downtown Murfreesboro.

County officials hope the court will lead to people understanding there’s a cost to deal with trash at a time when the private Middle Point Landfill is expected to close in eight to 12 years, said Jeff Davidson, the deputy to the mayor.

Citizens rewarded for reporting violations

The court will be part of the enforcement of environmental regulations from the county’s Solid Waste, Building Codes, Fire Rescue and Pet Adoption & Animal Services (P.A.W.S.) departments.

Nolen noted how residents who report violations that lead to convictions can earn rewards that come from the fines.

“That will help stop some of it,” Nolen said. “Until people realize, ‘I can get caught doing it, and it’s going to cost me a lot of money,’ they are going to continue doing it.”

Solid waste offenses
Dumping trash into the county’s recycling steel bins, thus contaminating the use of those recycled materials
Dumping TVs, sofas, tires and other large items from trucks on side of road, farms or other properties
Littering from cars

Types of building codes violations
Allowing yards of homes and businesses to grow 15 inches or higher
Building brush piles in drainage ditches that can cause flooding on streets, yards and homes
Leaving old couches in front of homes instead of hauling them to recycling (convenience) centers where they can be dumped in steel bins
Failing to keep property clear of trash
Breaking fire code rules
Burning brush during drought times when county has ban in place
Burning of vegetation off property where it had grown
Illegal burning of non-vegetation, such as plastics, rubber or anything that has hydrocarbons that can cause air pollution
Failing to be in fire code compliance with commercial buildings
County Fire Rescue Chief Larry Farley noted his staff examines commercial buildings to ensure the owners are in compliance with the fire code.

“As long as they are making a good faith effort, we’ll work with them,” Farley said. “Citing someone to court would be a the very last option if it’s apparent they are not trying to correct the problem.”

Unlawful treatment of animals
Cruelty to animals
Animals running at large
Failure to vaccinate animals

The Environmental Court will improve docket efficiency in helping P.A.W.S. staff who report to Director Michael Gregory only having to spend one to two hours in court instead of four to six, he said.

Reach Scott Broden through email at sbroden@dnj.com, phone at 615-278-5158 or on Twitter @ScottBroden.