Illegal dumps a continuing problem in Golden Valley

Phyllis Swick, an eight-year resident of Golden Valley, likes to take walks on Elgin Road near her home on Elfrida Road.

However, she believes an illegal dump off Elgin west of Redwall Drive that has been there for at least as long as she has lived in Golden Valley is despoiling the serenity and beauty of the desert.

Tires, bedsprings, chairs, a water heater, tires, a washing machine, plastic oil containers, a car battery, garbage container lids, broken glass and other trash litter a stretch of ground big enough to house a trailer along the west side of the road, and other garbage is scattered nearby.

"It's very disgusting," Swick said.

"I can't imagine people taking their trash out there and throwing it on somebody else's property.

Somebody is going to pay to have it removed, and they had nothing to do with it."

Swick, 65, said someone dumped a trailer and its contents eight years ago.

And while the trailer is gone, other trash has sprung up along the creosote bushes to take its place.

"In the last two years, it's gotten really bad," she said.

"You go back tomorrow, you got more junk."

Illegal dumps, also known as "wildcat" dumps, are a perennial problem in Golden Valley and other unincorporated areas throughout Mohave County.

The county supervisors consider it a serious enough problem to justify the formation of the Mohave County Trash Task Force, which has been meeting since October 1999.

Among other things, the committee in April urged the supervisors to hire a "litter cop" to crack down on illegal dumping.

In an unrelated move, the Northwest Arizona Watershed Council kicked off the Greater Kingman Area Wildcat Dump Cleanup Dec.

13 at the Keepers of the Wild sanctuary under construction in the White Hills area.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality awarded $82,200 of federal Clean Water Act grant money through the Water Quality Improvement Grant Program to the council in August.

The Greater Kingman Area Wildcat Dump Cleanup is designed to fund cleanups for a large number of wildcat dumpsites in the Kingman area.

Besides the dumpsite on Elgin, illegal dumps can be found at other locations in Golden Valley, said Ken Harrison, who lives on Canelo Road.

"I've seen them on Bolsa Drive before you get to Aztec (Road): trash, tires, old washing machines," Harrison said on a recent morning as he filled his gas tank.

Harrison, who was headed to the county-owned Cerbat Landfill south of Chloride, said he has not complained to authorities because he doubts that doing so will accomplish anything.

He speculated that most dumpers do so at night and away from heavily used roads so they can avoid detection.

Law enforcement officials acknowledge that it may be difficult to catch illegal dumpers, but said they consider the offense serious.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office is dealing with the problem and working with the task force, MCSO spokesman Steve Johnson said.

Whenever MCSO receives a complaint about illegal dumping, deputies respond quickly.

"We made an arrest not too long ago in the Oatman area," Johnson said.

"That is where we had witnesses.

We had a vehicle description."

Johnson declined to go into details about how deputies track down culprits, fearing it would tip off the offenders.

"We would rather not have to go after the offenders," he said.

"We would rather people took the responsibility themselves and got rid of trash" legally.

Illegal dumping is classified as littering, said Jace Zack, chief deputy attorney for the criminal division of the county attorney's office.

Criminal littering is a misdemeanor, but it is classified as a felony if the trash exceeds 300 pounds in weight or 100 cubic feet in volume or if the violator is paid by somebody else to get rid of the trash.

Misdemeanor convictions are punishable by a fine of up to $2,500, six months in jail, or both, said Zack, who serves on the trash task force.

Felony offenders face up to two years in prison if convicted.

From January through Dec.

13, the county attorney's office prosecuted 14 criminal littering cases, Zack said.

Half of them were misdemeanors and the other half were felonies.

Other violators may have been cited and paid fines, thus avoiding prosecution, he said.