“Trucker Bombs” Problem Isn’t Limited To North Dakota

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The media’s quest to leave no negative story about North Dakota’s oil boom uncovered manifests itself today in a AP article about litter along western highways, most notably “trucker bombs” which are containers filled with urine from truckers too busy to pull over and use a restroom.

The truckers throw these containers out their windows and into the ditches, creating a disgusting problem for public works employees and cleanup volunteers.

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.” …

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.”

The idea that North Dakota can’t afford rest stops is a little ridiculous. The state, flush with funds, could afford them. The problem is that that the oil boom has grown so fast there really hasn’t been time to build them. And would they even help?

The oil boom has certainly brought more trucks to western North Dakota, transporting supplies in and oil out, but the “trucker bombs” problem isn’t unique to the Bakken. It’s a problem wherever there is a lot of truck traffic.

According to this 2005 article, one small county in Washington found 2,666 bottles of urine in their ditches in one year.

Sadly, it seems more traffic means more litter (including trucker bombs) no matter where the traffic happens or why.

Really, this is just another argument for building the Keystone XL pipeline (along with other oil infrastructure). More pipeline capacity means fewer trucks on the road and less litter.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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