Erich Hofmann's crew hauled 210,000 pounds of trash from Taneytown on bulk pickup day last month. That's 42 pounds for each man, woman and child in the city of about 5,000.
"At one location, I picked up six hot water heaters," he told the City Council recently. "I ain't figured out yet where they all come from."
Taneytown is in a trash predicament.
Like many cities and towns in Carroll County, it offers bulk pickup for residents. Twice a year, in May and September, Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., which holds the city's trash removal contract, takes the large discards, from refrigerators to bookshelves to tree limbs.
But Taneytown exceeded its average by about 10 tons last month, costing the city an extra $5,000 in landfill fees. Hofmann, who works for BFI, told the council the volume of heavy appliances made him think that nonresidents sneaked in and dumped much of the trash.
"Driving around the city this time around, the things I saw were truly astonishing," said Patrick Nield, Taneytown's city manager. "There were streets where the stuff was just piled up end to end."
Other Carroll towns have had similar problems. Union Bridge ended its service about five years ago because outsiders were dumping vast amounts of trash into the town's trash bins and onto its streets.
"It got to where it was more trouble than it was worth," said Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr.
In Hampstead, police watch trash bins where contractors dump excess construction materials, said Town Manager Kenneth C. Decker.
Even Mount Airy, which demands proof of residency before allowing people to toss bulk trash into bins, had trouble this spring.
The town rolled out its trash bins on a Friday night for the Saturday drop-off. But by the time town officials arrived Saturday morning, the bins were half full. The town turned residents away in the afternoon because the bins reached capacity early in the day.
"I wouldn't say people were angry, but they were upset because they store stuff waiting for the scheduled day, and knowing that someone was unfairly using their service that they paid for, well, it was frustrating," said Mayor Gerald Johnson.
Johnson thinks most of the trash was from outside the town because he can't imagine why residents would have dumped their items prematurely.
Carroll County and neighboring jurisdictions in Pennsylvania and Frederick County don't offer bulk pickup, so it becomes tempting for residents of those areas to take advantage of town services, officials speculate. Policing is difficult for the towns because dumping locations are scattered and only a few officers work at a time.
"It's the price of greatness," Decker said with a laugh. "The towns offer such outstanding services that people want to get in on them. Unfortunately, they don't want to pay."
The escalating volume of trash has Taneytown officials pondering ways to contain the problem. Council members seemed skeptical that increased policing would keep outsiders from dumping, but limiting each household to three bulk items per pickup might help, they said.
BFI would charge only about $3,600 a year if the town imposed such a restriction but would charge between $12,000 and $16,000 for no-limit pickup, Nield said. That difference might seem insignificant in Baltimore, but not in Taneytown, where the overall budget is about $5 million. Council members seemed skeptical about imposing trash regulations.
"The only thing you're going to do with restrictions like that is make people mad," said Councilman James McCarron.
But other towns and cities have detailed regulations for bulk pickup programs. Westminster picks up small trees and brush Mondays; metal appliances Tuesdays; bagged grass Wednesdays; and furniture and building supplies Thursdays and Fridays. By offering service every week, the city prevents buildup from getting out of hand, said Bill Ritter, a foreman with the street department.