Last week, the Palm Beach County Commission gave initial approval to changes meant to shield residents in unincorporated areas from uncontrolled animal waste dumping. The issue has brought out people on all sides — from farmers and waste haulers, to annoyed neighbors and those with small backyard farms worried about meeting regulations.
Though not perfect, these changes to the county’s animal waste regulations are necessary to protect our communities. But it will take strict enforcement to eradicate the problem. For years, residents of Loxahatchee Groves and The Acreage have complained about illegal dumping of manure on empty lots, and Wellington recently tightened its regulations on manure haulers to make sure the loads get properly disposed of.
While we believe the county must be mindful of small property owners — those on little more than an acre who don’t necessarily cause a problem by spreading manure on their own property for gardening purposes — the fact is that illegally dumping manure is wrong and must be controlled. It’s a significant problem that has long been an issue not adequately addressed. Aside from being a nuisance to neighbors who don’t appreciate the smell, there is concern about the manure seeping into the groundwater.
New Environmental Protection Agency water control guidelines are on the horizon, and many communities are struggling with controlling phosphates in the water. The county’s unincorporated areas have a higher density of horses and other livestock, which means more work must be done to meet those standards. This is a good first step toward meeting the new standards.
It’s a regional problem, and having each community coming down harder on violators is important to keep it from spilling over into an unprotected community. Having strong regulations on all sides will hopefully make manure haulers think twice before dumping illegally.
But a major issue in this has been a lack of enforcement. For these regulations to really make a difference, it is crucial that the county enforce them — especially against egregious and repeated violators. Critics of the new regulations have pointed out that the county has not been effective in policing the problem with its current rules. We hope that the increased regulations make it easier for county compliance officers to identify and curb problems.
While it is prudent to have more discussion about some provisions that would affect backyard farms, the message to those who dump illegally must be strong: dispose of manure through proper channels.
The regulations will face another round of scrutiny from county commissioners later this summer. To learn more about the new rules, see the story on page 7 of this week’s issue or visit www.pbcgov.com.