Spring is finally here. That means longer days, warmer weather, green grass, and
melting snow banks revealing mountains of trash and roadside litter. As the hard-
working folks at Waterville Public Works plow our streets all winter long, they are
moving more than just snow. All that trash is now revealing itself once again, and it
is blight on our city.
For the last few years, I have been voluntarily picking up roadside litter here in
Waterville. I have been out there a lot in the last few weeks. I despise jogging or
going to the gym, but I have found that walking our neighborhoods with a trash bag
to collect litter is great exercise. I actually started a Facebook page “Don’t Trash
Waterville” to post photos and findings from my adventures. I’ve been shocked at
what I’ve found. The most abundant items I find are empty cigarette packs, nip
alcohol bottles, plastic shopping bags, food wrappers, Styrofoam cups, plastic
straws, fast food wrappers, and paper towels. Along the way I ask myself, where
does it all comes from?
My theory is that some of it comes from drivers and pedestrians littering our roads.
However, I think the vast majority of it comes from curbside trash bags and
recycling not being placed in covered containers. Crows and other critters wreak
havoc on our curbside trash, tearing open the purple bags and strewing litter in to
the streets looking for food.
I looked in to Waterville’s City Ordinances and was pleased to find this passage in
the Property Maintenance Ordinance, “Sec. 3-5b.1. Rubbish Storage Facilities: The
owner of every occupied premises shall supply approved covered containers for
rubbish, and the owner of premises shall be responsible for the removal of rubbish.”
It goes on to say, “Sec. 3-5c.2. Containers: The operator of every establishment
producing garbage shall provide, and at all times cause to be utilized, approved leak-
proof containers provided with close-fitting covers for the storage of such materials
until removed from the premises for disposal.”
Furthermore, the Waterville Solid Waste Ordinance states, “Sec.1-4. Administration:
7) It shall be the responsibility of residents to prevent waste or recycling from being
strewn or blown about the street prior to being collected.”
I contacted the Waterville Code Enforcement Office to ask if this was being enforced. They
told me that this section of the ordinance only apply to private property, not to public
property (ie the curb where you put your trash). This was disappointing. I am going to
follow up with the Waterville Public Works Department.
It is an exciting time to live in Waterville. Our downtown is experiencing a rapid
revitalization as once vacant buildings are being renovated. New businesses are
moving in to town. The Riverwalk project at Head of Falls will attract families.
Homes sales in Waterville are reaching record levels. These are all encouraging signs, but we need to keep our neighborhoods, trails, and streets clean and free of litter in order to attract more families and businesses to move to Waterville.
In 2017, a bill was proposed in the Maine legislature, LD 432, to make the first
Saturday of May “Maine Community Litter Clean Up Day” as is observed in New
Hampshire and Vermont. The bill passed the House and Senate. However, Governor
LePage vetoed it, saying “During the (winter) thaw, litter is known to be washed
away. Because of this, I do not think that that the bill is practical.” Wisely, the
legislature voted to override the Governor’s veto, and the bill became public law.
Please join Sustain Mid Maine Coalition for a community clean up day on Earth Day,
April 22 starting at 1pm in Castonguay Square. We will supply trash bags and
disposable gloves for volunteers. Together, we can all help keep Waterville clean
and make it a healthier and more beautiful place to live.
Todd Martin is a Waterville resident who works at the Natural Resources Council of
Last modified: April 9, 2018