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Open Dumping

Indiana’s open dumping rules (329 IAC 10-4 [PDF]) state that “No person shall cause or allow the storage, containment, processing, or disposal of solid waste in a manner which creates a threat to human health or the environment, including the creating of a fire hazard, vector attraction, air or water pollution, or other contamination.” Discarding trash or unwanted items anywhere except recycling centers or state permitted landfills, transfer stations, or incinerators is considered open dumping and is illegal. Burning waste materials—including household trash, business trash, construction/demolition debris, and dumped waste—is also illegal in Indiana.

The Solid Waste Compliance Section in IDEM’s Office of Land Quality investigates open dumps and dumping activities and enforces Indiana’s open dumping laws and rules. IDEM’s Office of Air Quality investigates illegal open burning and enforces open burning laws and rules. IDEM’s Open Burning portal covers open burning regulations.

About Open Dumps

Open dumps may be found on public or private property and are typically located in secluded areas such as woods or ravines, roadways, ditches, river and creek banks, vacant lots, and abandoned sites. Dumped waste often includes household building debris, construction and demolition waste, household garbage, appliances, furniture, tires, plastics, cardboard, and hazardous waste—including household hazardous waste (HHW) such as used oil, weed killer, or swimming pool chemicals—that is corrosive, toxic, ignitable, and/or reactive. Some dumpsites may even contain abandoned vehicles or potentially dangerous chemicals and paraphernalia from illegal drug labs (e.g., meth labs).

Potential Health Impacts

Physical hazards at open dumps include broken glass, sharp metal, and hypodermic needles that can cause painful injuries; appliances in which children or animals can become trapped; and tires that may catch fire and emit toxic smoke. Illegal drug lab waste can pose immediate threats (i.e., explosions, fires, chemical burns, or vapors). Chemical hazards include toxic substances such as antifreeze, paint, pesticides, and mercury from gas appliance pilot light sensors and other products that can be especially hazardous to curious children.

Biological hazards include contaminated medical waste that can cause life-altering diseases (HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B or C). Household garbage (e.g., food scraps, dirty diapers) can attract disease-spreading rodents. Discarded tires or other objects that collect standing water can provide breeding areas for mosquitoes that could carry encephalitis or West Nile Virus. Asbestos can cause lung disease or cancer, depending on the level and length of the exposure.

Potential Environmental and Community Impacts

Open dumps can cause soil and water contamination, plant and wildlife habitat damage, and depletion of Earth’s protective ozone layer when appliances (e.g., air conditioners, refrigerators) release refrigerants into the atmosphere. Pollutants can seep into groundwater, be carried by rainwater to waterbodies, and contaminate drinking water supplies. Engineered liner systems in regulated landfills protect soil and water from contamination when waste is disposed of properly.

Unsightly waste piles can spoil the aesthetic appeal of Indiana’s landscape, decrease community quality of life, lower property values of surrounding homes, negatively affect tourism, and cost municipalities money for cleanups.

Open Dumping Laws and Rules

State laws in the Indiana Code prohibit open dumping:

“Open dump” and “open dumping” are defined in IC 13-11-2 (Sections 146 and 147).

Rules in the Indiana Administrative Code (329 IAC 10 [PDF]) detail how IDEM implements and enforces state open dumping laws:

  • Acts prohibited (329 IAC 10-4-2)
  • Open dumps prohibited (329 IAC 10-4-3)
  • Owner responsibilities (329 IAC 10-4-4)
  • Enforcement (329 IAC 10-1-2)
  • Penalties (329 IAC 10-1-3)

Consequences of Open Dumping

Open dumping is an act that disregards the environmental safeguards required by Indiana laws and rules. Open dumping is a class D felony. Violators must pay for the cleanup and properly dispose of dumped waste at a recycling center or state permitted landfill, transfer station, or incinerator.

How to Report and Prevent Open Dumping

Report open dumping immediately to IDEM’s complaint coordinator. Local law enforcement officers may work with state government officials to investigate and prosecute offenders. Publicizing arrests, successfully prosecuting violators, and using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Illegal Dumping Prevention Guidebook (available at the National Service Center for Environmental Publications) may help to deter others from open dumping activities.

How to Prevent Waste and Safely and Legally Dispose of It

  • Reduce waste by avoiding disposable items; buying products in bulk, economy size, or concentrated form; and purchasing durable, rechargeable, repairable, and refillable products.
  • Reuse products by donating unwanted items and mending or repairing broken items instead of discarding or replacing them. Find a donation center on the internet or ask your solid waste management district (SWMD) about donation centers and charitable organizations that need and accept donated items. SWMDs are listed on the Association of Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts’ website.
  • Recycle by separating recyclable items such as glass, metals, plastics, and paper from your garbage. Contact your SWMD or use IDEM’s Recycle Indiana portal to find a local drop-off site or curbside recycling service.
  • Use a municipal or private trash service. Ask your SWMD or local government agency about available options. MyLocal.IN.gov provides links to local government agency websites (select a county from the dropdown menu).
  • Take trash to a permitted solid waste management facility on IDEM’s Permitted Solid Waste Facilities [PDF] list or to a state approved collection container system (CCS) that is open to the public. For CCS locations, please contact the applicable solid waste management district listed on the Association of Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts’ website.
  • Follow IDEM’s Waste Cleanup Guidelines for Open Dumpsites, which cover abandoned vehicles, appliances, asbestos-containing materials, construction and demolition waste (including household building debris), electronic waste (e-waste), household hazardous waste (HHW), illegal drug lab waste, infectious waste, mercury, tires, unwanted medicine, and yard waste.

Additional Resources

For Assistance

Please contact the Solid Waste Compliance Section staff for more information or assistance.

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