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Spring Break Alternative Plan

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Gina Kinslow

Glasgow Daily Times, Ky.


HORSE CAVE — Six volunteer students from the University of Michigan spent part of Monday morning cleaning an illegal dump site just outside Horse Cave on J. Harper Road through an Alternative Spring Break program.

Judy Lansky of Michigan Hillel, the center of Jewish life at the university, contacted Peggy Nims, education director at the American Cave Conservation in Horse Cave, about coordinating a trip that would allow university students to do volunteer work during spring break.

“We’ve been talking and planning for about four months now making this trip a reality,” Lansky said.

Lansky and the students drove from Ann Arbor, Mich., over the weekend, staying at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Glasgow.

Lansky said she has been impressed with the community’s hospitality during the visit.

“They’ve been incredible to us,” she said.

Before getting to work Monday, the students traveled to Horse Cave and touched base with Nims, who explained the area’s karst topography and how trash and garbage dumped in and near caves and sinkholes can affect ground water.

“They’ve never been in a cave and I don’t think they have been to Kentucky,” Nims said. “This is all new to them.”

The students found several books, some of them salvageable, among other items at the dump site on J. Harper Road. Among the books the students found was John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Phil Ring, a sophomore at the university, was surprised to see open dumpsites. He said he’s unaccustomed to seeing such things in Michigan, where he said there is “more organized trash.”

Ring chose to take the trip, he said “to get away from the busy life.”

He and his fellow university students just finished midterm exams last week. This week he said, “(We) wake up, go to work, go to bed. This is just more tamer. I love it.”

Later Monday, the students went to another dump site on a vacant lot close to downtown Horse Cave.

Nims and Lansky worked alongside the students as they picked up trash. They were directed to the dumpsite on J. Harper Road by Kerry McDaniel, solid waste coordinator for Hart County.

“We’ve cleaned 104 illegal dumps in the county in the last eight years,” he said.

The county receives state funding to help pay to clean-up large dump sites, but for small ones such as the students cleaned, state funding is unavailable. A dump site has to be two cubic yards or larger to qualify for state funding, he said.

McDaniel said he is appreciative of the students’ work.

“They provide a much needed resource for us,” he said.

McDaniel tries to find dump sites that are considered to be “clean” – meaning they have no farm chemical or medical waste or other harmful material.

He cautioned the students about solid waste that could have been used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, such as plastic soda bottles or Coleman fuel bottles.

“If you see a 20-ounce bottle that has liquid in it or holes in it, don’t touch it,” he said.

In the past, when other universities have partnered with ACCA for Alternative Spring Break trips, plastic bottles with suspicious liquid inside have been found when cleaning dumpsites.

“Sadly, sinkholes and caves are becoming dump sites for meth waste,” Nims said.

The students also spent time doing work at ACCA and Hidden River Cave and were offered the opportunity to rappel and ride the museum’s zip line.

The University of Michigan students were the first of several who are expected to visit the Horse Cave area in the coming weeks to do environmental work. Other students scheduled to come are from Boston University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.


©2015 the Glasgow Daily Times (Glasgow, Ky.)

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Spring Break Alternative Plan