March 26, 2012
TIOGA, N.D. — Along the wide-open expanses and rolling prairie of western North Dakota surrounding the state’s booming oil patch, all sorts of bizarre litter can be found clogging the once picturesque roadside: Derelict hardhats, single boots, buckets, pallets, pieces of machinery, shredded semi tires, oily clothing, cigarette butts.
The worst? Plastic jugs of urine pitched out windows as scores of truckers pass through oil country.
Litter has become an escalating problem as the rush to tap vast caches of crude escalates in North Dakota. As the number of trucks coming to the oil mecca increases, so does the trash. Some of the industrial rubbish blows in from unsecured truckloads, but for many, the most frustrating trash is the gallons of discarded urine.
The problem has local leaders and rural residents scratching their heads. There’s no money to build new rest stops, and once-eager community volunteers are less willing to pick up junk now because they don’t want to handle human waste. So little has been done to address the problem, save for upgrading mowing tractors with cabs to protect operators from getting sprayed with urine when the jugs are hit by a wheel or blade.
“I don’t know if it can be solved other than by people having some respect, because right now the countryside is being taken for granted,”
said Tioga Mayor Nathan Germundson.
“It’s a growing problem and it’s sad.”
The jugs are known around these parts as “trucker bombs,” and they freckle the countryside. They show up in a variety of containers: antifreeze jugs, beverage bottles or milk cartons, and are usually hurled by drivers too hurried or weak-bladdered to stop and relieve themselves politely.
Of course, there’s a reason they’re thrown in the first place. There are only three rest stops along the hundreds of miles of highway in western North Dakota, and all are well outside the busiest areas of the state’s oil patch. Until there are more truck stops or rest areas on the much-traveled route, the jugs will probably still be tossed by truckers, said Tom Balzer, executive vice president of the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association.
“It is a huge issue, but one of the biggest problems is there isn’t lot of places for these guys stop to properly dispose of the receptacles,” Balzer said. “I don’t know that it’s a case of being disrespectful but of the unbelievable growth out there.”