New neighbors are moving in next door on Corbett’s S.E. Curtis Drive, and Lisa Kinney is worried.
She is fairly sure the new arrivals haven’t yet been warned to watch out for the poop-filled shopping bags that appear along their road from time to time, placed every few feet, along the fog line. Even though County health officials are able to scoop up many, others get snatched by passing dogs or smashed by passing cars.
It’s happened for nearly five years now. Sometimes it’s like clockwork, with the bags dropped regularly on Sunday nights. Other times, months might go by, and then six or seven bags will appear, on Curtis Drive or some other east County road. Kinney wishes the perpetrator would reach out for help; it’s a plea County health officials share.
“I think they are in a situation where maybe we could help them,” Kinney said. “I don’t imagine someone who has a bathroom would do something like this.”
Multnomah County Code Enforcement is seeking the public’s help identifying whoever is responsible for disposing of the bags, filled with human poop and kitty litter, along rural roads like Kinney’s near Troutdale, Springdale and Corbett.
The bags, often plastic shopping bags from Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree, have been dumped at nearly 500 sites since late 2018, usually during early morning hours, primarily along the following stretches of road:
- S.E. Sweetbriar Road, between S.E. Kerslake and Troutdale roads
- S.E. Kerslake Road, between S.E. Sweetbriar Road and S.E. Stark Street
- S.E. 282nd Avenue, between S.E. Sweetbriar and Strebin roads
- S.E. Curtis Drive, between the Historic Highway and Smith Road
Multnomah County Code Enforcement handles illegal dumping in unincorporated areas of Multnomah County. A majority of illegal dumps are large household garbage. But over the past five years, Enforcement Officer Dave Thomson has picked up hundreds of bags of human waste dumped on local roadways.
Some bags have remained intact, but some have been ripped open and splattered by passing cars, with poop left to wash into the drainage ditch. And that’s a problem: Human feces can carry diseases, and when that poop washes into drainage ditches, it can contaminate waterways where people spend time.
Thomson does his best to recover bags promptly, but doody duty competes with his many other roles.
“I have a million other functions,” he said.
On any given day Thomson might inspect a business that fails to adhere to clean air laws, investigate illegal dumping of a couch and fridge, levy fines for illegal livestock in the City of Portland or for a junk car in Maywood Park, chase down any of the County’s 3,000 facilities that might fail to renew their licenses, or post a closure notice to a business that refuses to cooperate with Public Health.
“Your eyes would glaze if you knew everything on my plate. That’s why I can’t afford to spend my time scooping up poop,” he said. “There’s nothing in my job description that requires me to clean up human poop, but it's such an unsanitary thing. The community doesn’t deserve this.”
Thomson urges whoever is dumping the poop to either stop or to reach out for help.
“We want to understand why the person might be doing this,” Thomson said. “Perhaps this person doesn’t have a bathroom or another way of disposing of their waste. We’re not interested in punishment. We want to help them get the support they need.”
If you spot someone in the act of illegal dumping, Thomson asks that you don’t try and stop the person. Instead, get a license plate number and vehicle description, and dial 9-1-1.
If you spot these bags or any other illegally disposed materials in unincorporated Multnomah County, call Environmental Health at 503-988-3464 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.