The blame for illegal dumping lies in just one place — with those who are doing it.
But in Haverhill, where the problem is getting worse, the practical reality is that city officials have increased the incentives for people to break the law.
The city moved this past week to curb the increase in illegal dumping at yet another location, the eastern end of Tower Avenue, a relatively remote spot in an otherwise urban area. They installed a locked gate at the intersection of the road with Observatory Avenue, which is out of sight of any other residents.
That is a good and necessary step to take. But nobody should be surprised that the problem is getting worse. The City Council essentially guaranteed that last fall.
The council approved an ordinance in October that increased the fine from $50 to $300 for placing "refuse, house dirt, ashes, waste and/or rubbish" at curbside for pickup in violation of the rules and regulations of the Board of Health. It also forces residents to pay for large amounts of trash they leave on the street.
The change came at the urging of Mayor James Fiorentini, who wanted the fine boosted even higher, to $500. The mayor argued at the time that if the city continued to pick up such trash without being compensated, "we're sending the message that it's OK."
That is true. But Fiorentini and councilors ought to know that one of the reasons people put things like televisions and other large objects out at the curb is because the city has made it more difficult to get rid of them. A number of residents noted at the time that if officials imposed a 600 percent increase in the fine on curbside "littering" without providing a convenient way to dispose of such things lawfully, they should not be surprised by an increase in such trash, including hazardous waste, being dumped in the woods or in the river.
That is exactly what is happening. In the woods off of Tower Avenue, there are mounds of construction debris, broken toys, toilets and big-screen TVs.
Resident Lucien LaMarre, who has lived at the other end of Tower Avenue for nearly 40 years, said there has always been illegal dumping in the area, but that it has increased this spring.
Councilor David Hall, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, has been active in keeping track of illegal dumping and getting it cleaned up, was also involved in having the gate put up at the end of Tower Avenue.
That is laudable. But the problem will continue to get worse if people believe the price of obeying the law is higher than the risk of getting caught for breaking it.
Nobody wants litter on local streets. But this effort to get rid of it has simply moved it somewhere else, where it is even more expensive to clean it up.