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Ely facing a trashy dilemma

Garbage and cardboard piling up at recycling center, and at city park

by Tom Coombe

“It’s that time of year again.”

Those were the words Tuesday of city clerk-treasurer Harold Langowski as he described what has become an annual summer issue in Ely: illegal dumping of trash at the city’s recycling center.

“We don’t seem to have any issues until June, July and August and maybe the first couple of months of September,” Langowski said during a report at the regular city council meeting. “There’s a tremendous amount of garbage being dumped.”

In addition to people leaving trash at the center, located near the softball complex on Ely’s eastern edge, there are more issues with corrugated cardboard mixed in with other recyclables.

“We’ve had a lot of cardboard boxes,” said Langowski.

While cardboard is not taken at Ely’s recycling center, Langowski noted it can be brought to the transfer station on Highway 21, as well as the transfer station at Fall Lake and one near Soudan.

With a touch of sarcasm, Langowski noted that those who take their cardboard to the Ely recycling area should “take your shipping label off” their package, noting “it does make it quite easy for the police department to haul the trash back to their house.”

“It isn’t something we like to do,” he said.

Langowski said one culprit left cardboard atop an ash pile.

Through the years, Ely has encountered numerous issues related to recycling and illegal dumping, both at the current site and former recycling locations on the west end of town and near the old city garage.

The placement of cameras, shortened hours and attendants on site have not resolved issues and Langowski said “I can’t regulate who goes there,” noting the current location is open 24 hours per day. When gates were locked, some would pile up garbage at the entrance while some figured ways to place refuse out of view of the cameras.

The city also is regularly encountering issues of illegal trash dumping at Whiteside Park.

“The garbage cans around the park are inundated with household trash all summer long,” said Langowski. “In the summer it’s a daily occurrence that we have to collect garbage. It’s something that occurs during the summer months.”

People may be fined up to $300 for placing trash where it doesn’t belong.

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