A group representing companies working in North Dakota's booming oil patch announced an effort Tuesday to clean up the human waste, old tires and other trash littering the state's highways.
The Associated Press reported last month that oil patch communities are struggling to combat the growing trash problem that includes urine-filled jugs tossed by truckers along roadsides. A spokeswoman said the oil industry planned to address the problem but the international publicity "speeded us up a little bit."
The North Dakota Petroleum Council's so-called Pick up the Patch campaign will begin Wednesday along a stretch of highway near Dickinson, said Alexis Brinkman, government relations manager for the group that represents about 350 companies working in the oil patch.
North Dakota's oil boom has brought prosperity and population growth but also problems, including inordinate amounts of garbage piling up on the prairie and along roadsides.
Some 135 people pitched in Saturday to pick up refuse along 15 miles of road in the Watford City area, organizer Karen Holte said. Volunteers filled about 100 big garbage bags of trash per mile and three heaping truckloads of semitrailer tires, but by Tuesday, evidence of their effort was beginning to fade.
"We're only three days in, and there already is fresh trash in the ditches," Holte said. "It's ridiculous."
The Petroleum Council was unanimous in its support for the cleanup initiative, and members are being encouraged to establish long-term programs, not just one-time pickups, Brinkman said.
"Of all the challenges, this is something we can have an immediate impact _ we can pick up trash today," she said. "We are trying to establish a no-trash culture."
Holte, the cleanup organizer in Watford City, said it's important to residents to keep the area litter-free. She said at least one volunteer was on his hands and knees picking up cigarette butts on Saturday.
"Obviously, we like our town, and we hate to see what's happening to it litter-wise," she said.