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Trash troubles in Centralia

A mine reclamation group says illegal dumping has increased during the pandemic.

CENTRALIA, Pa. — Centralia is the latest community to fall victim to illegal dumping as piles of garbage are being dumped throughout the community.

A mine reclamation group wants to raise awareness and stop it from happening again.

Fewer than a dozen people currently call Centralia home, but many more visit the community daily. While most just bring their cameras to capture memories of Centralia and its underground mine fire, lately, some people are bringing garbage and lots of it.

"It's sad; it's really sad to see this stuff here. Much of it could have been recycled. Much of it could have been put out by the trash," said Bobby Hughes.

Hughes is the executive director for the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation. The nonprofit based in Ashley addresses abandoned mine issues and often deals with illegal dumpsites.

Hughes and his group have been holding cleanups in Centralia for seven years. He says dumping has increased since coronavirus hit.

"There's not that many people around now, so they feel like they can come out and do it more often. The weather is nice, and people are cleaning their houses. It's almost like it's spring cleaning a little late. That's what they're seeing with the contractor bags," Hughes said.

Jim Haney is a code enforcement officer for Conyngham Township, which is where Centralia is. He spent part of his morning sifting through the trash looking for names and addresses so the illegal dumpers can be charged.

"Up the river, they have $1,000 fine for littering. Down here, I think it's $25 for the first time, up to $100. it's not a deterrent," Haney said. "I've found people from as far away as North Carolina. They come up here apparently to see Centralia and dump their household garbage."

Hughes is planning another cleanup for Centralia when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.