"Trash Cops," tougher laws and roving dumpsters to put a bite in wildcat dumping crimes

Mohave County is full of wildcat (illegal) dumping sites, and government officials say it will take awareness, effort, money, tougher anti-littering laws and a new "trash cop," to combat the problem.

"We will be hiring someone to develop and run anti-littering and trash removal programs," Mohave County Public Works Director Mike Hendrix said.

"That person will be involved in education, enforcement and cleanup."

A newly developed position, Hendrix said the new county employee's salary will come out of a $255,000 fund generated a year by the $2 per-ton county tipping fees paid by county landfill customers.

"Half of that fund is designated for our wildcat dumping programs," he said.

"The other half goes for household hazardous waste programs.

We just did a hazardous waste pickup about four weeks ago."

Hendrix said money left over from the half of the fund designated for the hazardous waste program was split equally among the three Mohave County supervisors for trash cleanup within their own districts.

"The other half is still reserved for development and operation of wildcat dumping prevention programs, as well as enforcement of anti-littering laws and cleanup of trash," he said.

The new employee won't be working out of the county public works department, but will possibly be employed through the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, he said.

A county vehicle and all materials and supplies needed for the newly created position will come out of the tipping fee fund, and have already been budgeted.

Walter "Mac" McCarty," a Mohave County volunteer "trash cop," who began patrolling the back roads of the county for illegal dumpsites in May, said he has seen "tons of trash" - including burnt mobile homes, appliances, furniture and household trash - dumped on public and private lands throughout the county.

McCarty, who is a Sheriff's Citizen Action Team (SCAT) member, uses a Mohave County Sheriff's Office vehicle and camera to record the wildcat dumpsites he sees, but has no authority to arrest, or even approach anyone, even if he sees someone dumping trash.

"It makes you sick to see all the trash people are dumping in our desert," McCarty said.

"Some people don't care where they dump it, or how much they dump, even when there are anti-littering signs all over the place."

McCarty, who is trying to get the county to let him use a truck and trailer to pick up some of the trash dumped on county back roads, said he would be willing to supervise community service workers or jail trusties to help with the cleanup efforts.

"Something needs to be done - and soon," he added.

Dolan Springs resident Sue Baughman said trash in the county is a serious problem that just keeps getting worse.

Baughman was involved in cleanup efforts after the Northwest Arizona Watershed Council applied for, and received, an $80,000 two-year grant for education and cleanup from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in 2000.

Baughman, who was involved in the "tail end" of the cleanup effort, was the project coordinator at the beginning of this year.

The group identified and cleaned up 18 wildcat dumping sites in the White Hills area, Dolan Springs and Golden Valley.

"It was just the tip of the iceberg," she said.

"We cleaned up sites on two roads in Golden Valley, but just a few days later someone had dumped trash again.

It is a losing battle until the county does something about this thing."

Baughman said there are other things that can be done to help alleviate the wildcat dumping situation in the county.

"We need transfer stations (construction-type dumpsters set up in various locations), and we need to encourage recycling and better hours at the county landfill," she said.

"In addition, if they find someone dumping, fine them heavily and get them out there picking up their own trash and other trash for a few weeks."

In addition to cleanup efforts, the grant was used for anti-littering videos shown at local schools and wildcat dumping prevention billboards, she said.

Mohave County Supervisor Pete Byers said he wants action on the issue.

"We have been doing studies about this problem for too long.

It is time to do something.

It is a huge problem in the county," he said.

"About 5 percent of people are causing the problems," Byers said.

"But those people are generating a lot of trash."

A proposal for a tougher trash ordinance - that would close a loophole in a state law - went before the county supervisors in October and a public hearing will be held Dec.

2.

Byers said the county will clean up 15 burnt and abandoned mobile homes, which he said are eyesores and health hazards.

In addition, he said the county is trying to coordinate activities the weekend of Dec.

7 to conduct clean up activities in what Byers calls the "new Kingman addition" east of Castle Rock Road.

"We will set up two or three large roll-off dumpsters and people to man them," Byers said.

The county currently partners with the city to sponsor Hazardous Waste Day collections, and a tire-recycling program helps get rid of some of the tires, although Byers said he would like to see more recycling done.

The Clean City Commission, a nine-member commission appointed by the Kingman City Council, plans to step up efforts within the city regarding trash.

Rich Ruggles, the principal planner with Kingman Planning & Zoning, and the staff liaison to the commission, said the commission will begin a program to place roving dumpsters at various locations within the city.

"The dumpsters will be placed in neighborhoods within the city," Ruggles said.

"It is another way residents can get rid of items that don't fit in their trash cans."

Ruggles said the tentative plan is to locate a dumpster in the downtown area across the street from the downtown pool next weekend.

The commission also conducts educational programs twice a year, he said.

Part III of this series will focus on recycling.