April 16, 2010 9:18 AM
By Mel Kelly
There are people in our city and county who burn garbage, plastic and trash in an outside fire pit almost nightly. Their fires generate clouds of smoke that leave clearly defined layers of putrid and noxious pollution. The odors from the smoke create a public nuisance, but even more important, the fires result in serious health hazards.
The acrid smoke from these garbage fires makes it impossible to open bedroom windows at night to capture a cool breeze. The stench permeates and lingers heavily inside if a house window is carelessly left open when the garbage fire blazes. The putrid smoke overwhelms clean laundry left drying on an outside clothes line. Unsuspecting drivers can suddenly find themselves in a dangerous fog at local intersection crossings.
It is impossible to visit outside with friends or passers-by because the noxious smell is so bad. Visitors who come to town are overwhelmed both at the garbage smell and the thoughtlessness of one neighbor toward others. Million dollar houses and condominiums sit vacant, downwind of the nightly burning rituals. Tourists and residents alike who try to enjoy a nightly walk are appalled at the unhealthy and unpleasant situation which goes unregulated for lack of a “no burning” or
mandatory garbage pickup ordinances. The actions of a few poison the air – and the living – for all.
“Don’t mess with my property rights” is the excuse usually given for the bad behavior. “I can do anything I want on my own property!”
But what about the property rights of those who live next door, and down the street, and throughout the neighborhoods where hundreds must suffer from the effects of the garbage fires? What about the children trying to sleep, especially those with asthma or other diagnosed breathing difficulties? How about the elderly who must use oxygen, and others without air conditioning who depend on fresh air in their homes? Why are their “property rights” not considered when the noxious garbage fires are allowed to burn freely, seriously polluting EVERYONE’s property?
And what about the property rights of homeowners who find their yards fouled with the feces of unleashed, untended stray dogs and cats? Why are unsupervised animals allowed to regularly menace health-walkers and bikers? Why must some neighbors be subjected to the incessant barking of unsupervised dogs, or feel unsafe in their own yard because of the threatening behavior of someone else’s wandering animal?
In Carrabelle, even roosters are allowed to roam unhindered from yard to yard, crowing and pooping at all hours. Why should a “free-range” rooster be allowed to keep anyone from sleeping because of its constant noise? And why must a child be kept from playing in their own yard because of the ugly presence of animal waste left by the unattended “pets” of others?
Much has been made about the failure to sell hundreds of excess properties which were greedily overbuilt within our local limits. I wonder if some of the potential out-of-town buyers visited during a garbage fire evening and decided against making an offer on a smoke-surrounded second home. I know residents who were menaced by a stray pit bull and chose not to get out of the safety of their car. Some local citizens fear for the well-being of their grandchildren coming to visit in such an unhealthy and even hostile environment!
The City and the County Department of Public Health share responsibility for the health, safety and well-being of all citizens. The ignorance and thoughtlessness exhibited by the neighborhood garbage-fire burners results in serious environmental air pollution. Burn garbage? Let pets roam free? Those actions could be criminal if someone sickens or dies because of them.
According to Florida Statutes, “386.01 Sanitary nuisance.–A sanitary nuisance is the commission of any act, by an individual, municipality, organization, or corporation, or the keeping, maintaining, propagation, existence, or permission of anything, by an individual, municipality, organization, or corporation, by which the health or life of an individual, or the health or lives of individuals, may be threatened or impaired, or by which or through which, directly or indirectly, disease may be caused.”
Why do we tolerate such thoughtless, inconsiderate and illegal behavior in our town? Who will stop it, and when?
Mel Kelly, a concerned resident of Carrabelle, writes frequently for the Times.