When environmental activists ended a weekend protest in Washington earlier this month, they left behind a literal ton of trash, a spokeswoman for Skagit County tells Heat Street.
From May 13 to May 15, thousands of activists stormed the Pacific Northwest calling for stronger measures against climate change. Seeking to block oil shipments, so-called “kayaktivists” took to the waters near refineries, while their land-loving counterparts trespassed onto railroad land and set up camp on the train tracks.
BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas described a “camp-jungle atmosphere,” where roughly 150 protestors brought not only tents and mattresses but also paint and musical instruments. Activists’ passion for the environment apparently didn’t extend to picking up their garbage, though.
Authorities eventually broke up the camp, arresting 52 activists and fining them for trespassing. When the protestors departed, they left behind between 10 and 20 percent of their garbage, Melonas says—a stunning 2,300 pounds of litter, by Skagit County’s tally.
The county and BNFS railroad employees had to spend hours picking up the trash. The railroad deployed a machine to help de-clutter the tracks, while other teams tidied up the messy site by hand.
In the end, BNFS volunteered to cover the full costs of removal. Given the lag in invoicing, Melonas says, the railroad doesn’t yet know the total cost. “Any time you shut down a rail line—how do you value expense?” Melonas says. “There’s overtime for employees. You have all that support that was there. It’s overall effort—it’s costly. It takes people away from doing what they typically do from work. There was a large amount of people involved, from the cleanup to the security.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum and the Steamboat Institute.