Column: Don't turn Mohave County into a dump

BUTCH MERIWETHER/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Mohave County ERACE Investigator Kevin Hartmann searches through one of 14 bags of trash haphazardly tossed out in Golden Valley to find evidence of who illegally dumped the them onto a vacant lot. Much of Hartmann’s time is spent in the field searching for individuals who have been illegally dumping garbage, commonly referred to as “wildcat dumping.” If evidence can be found determining the culprit who illegally dumped trash, several things can happen. The investigator can: visit the person’s residence, give them a warning and make them clean up the illegal dump area; issue them a citation; and/or turn it over to the Mohave County District Attorney for prosecution.

BUTCH MERIWETHER/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Mohave County ERACE Investigator Kevin Hartmann searches through one of 14 bags of trash haphazardly tossed out in Golden Valley to find evidence of who illegally dumped the them onto a vacant lot. Much of Hartmann’s time is spent in the field searching for individuals who have been illegally dumping garbage, commonly referred to as “wildcat dumping.” If evidence can be found determining the culprit who illegally dumped trash, several things can happen. The investigator can: visit the person’s residence, give them a warning and make them clean up the illegal dump area; issue them a citation; and/or turn it over to the Mohave County District Attorney for prosecution.

It's that time of the year again - we are experiencing great weather and our scenic mountains and the beautiful desert in Mohave County are just asking to be explored and, of course, those fishing spots are waiting for the avid anglers.

As you head out into the untamed areas of mostly uninhabited portions of Mohave County, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see there are people who have no respect for our public lands and/or private property.

It's paradoxical that even though we reside in a very picturesque area, some residents treat Mohave County lands as their personal dumping ground.

Proof of this can be seen daily while driving the highways, the dirt roads that stretch throughout our county, on the public lands managed by Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Trust Lands and even in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (a U.S. National Park).

Fast food containers, baby diapers, old tires, the paper cup that held yesterday's latte, beer and soda cans, water bottles and other trash are haphazardly thrown along the sides of roads and vacant lots.

Drinking beer in vehicles and then tossing out the empties is a major problem within the county as evidenced by the number of bottles and cans thrown along our streets, roads and highways. Not only is it pollution, it is very much illegal to drink and drive!

No, I'm not saying that all trash alongside roadways and out in the uninhabited areas of the county is deposited only by residents. Some visitors traveling through our area toss stuff out of car windows instead of using an in-vehicle litter bag or waiting to place their trash in containers at gas stations or other appropriate receptacles. Litterbugs, whether a resident or visitor, are extremely lazy people and really don't care about our environment. I personally wonder what their yards look like. Do they walk outside their front doors and dump their trash into the yard, or do they take the time and effort to put their trash into garbage cans?

There are a select few residents of our county who have even shown a total disregard to our picturesque areas by discarding mattresses, couches, household appliances and abandoned vehicles. However, I've noticed that many of the old abandoned vehicles are rapidly disappearing from the Mohave County outback because of the value of scrap metal.

It's beyond comprehension to attempt to figure out why some residents spend more time and money purchasing gas to drive out into the middle of nowhere to illegally dump. It would take less money if they actually took their junk and trash to: Gambi Disposal of Arizona Landfill, 7300 Mineral Park Road in Golden Valley; Lake Havasu Landfill at Highway 95 and Chenoweth Drive in Lake Havasu City; or the Mohave Valley Landfill at Highway 95 and El Rodeo Rd. in Mohave Valley.

Illegal dumping creates an environmental eyesore and victimizes property owners who sometimes end up paying big bucks to remove the junk and trash.

I guess people who illegally dump their trash; TVs, appliances and vehicles do not think they will ever be caught. Well, I have news for them; "big brother" is actively looking for them.

Mohave County isn't accepting the litter problem as just a fact of life. The Mohave County Parks Department has a program called Environmental Rural Area Cleanup Enforcement.

ERACE is a multi-faceted program that goes after the people dumping illegally. If convicted of illegally dumping garbage in county areas, commonly referred to as "wild cat dumping," you could spend time in jail and pay a hefty fine.

"We have conducted more than 130 separate investigations into illegal dumping in Mohave County since January 2011," said Kevin Hartmann, an investigator with ERACE. According to Investigator Hartmann, the county takes illegal dumping very seriously and appreciates it when residents call in to report illegal dumping activities.

Local city and county governments do not have the funds to hire hundreds of people to actively search for illegal dumpers. That's where you come in. If you happen to see someone illegally dumping trash, take pride in our beautiful lands and get involved. Write down the description of the person or persons illegally dumping, the description of their vehicle, the vehicle's license plate number, the location where the illegal dumping occurred and the time and date of the incident. And if you have a camera with you, take a picture of the culprit, the vehicle being used and after they depart a picture of the trash that was dumped illegally. The more information you provide law enforcement personnel and agencies, the better chances are that the perpetrators will be caught and prosecuted. Never attempt to contact or confront the person or persons illegally dumping.

Who to call

Call the following agencies if you spot illegal dumping within Mohave County:

• Within Lake Mead National Recreation Area, call the Lake Mohave Ranger Station at (928) 754-3272;

• On state lands, call the Arizona State Land Department, Northern Region Office at (928) 774-1425;

• On county and unincorporated areas, call ERACE officials at (928) 715-0480;

• On lands managed by BLM, call the Kingman BLM Field Office at (928) 718-3700, the Lake Havasu City BLM Field Office at (928) 505-1200 or the BLM Central Dispatch at (800) 637-9152;

• Within Kingman City limits, call the city police at (928) 753-2191;

• Within Bullhead City limits, call the city police at (928) 763-9200;

• Within Lake Havasu City limits, call the city police at (928) 855-1171;

• If you are not sure what agency has jurisdiction, call the Mohave County Sheriff's Office at (928) 753-0753;

• And if you believe the offense is serious enough and possibly involves toxic waste, call 911 or Mohave Silent Witness at (888) 227-8780.

ERACE also assists residents with community-improvement projects. They, in cooperation with other local and county public works, highway and sanitation departments, are more than willing to assist residents interested in cleaning up their neighborhoods. The various departments may provide large dumpsters during the community clean-up project, even send a truck to pick up the bagged litter or big items and provide paint to cover up graffiti.

Both city and county governments also schedule free trash days when residents are able to get rid of large junk items, trash and toxic waste such as old cans of paint at a specific location at no charge to them.

Litter on lands managed by the BLM is not always put there by the people you might suspect as the culprits. It's not just kids who go up into the BLM lands to party, leaving their beer bottles and cans behind. Many adults litter there, too!

BLM officials consider littering and illegally dumping a very serious problem. The maximum allowable punishment an individual can receive under federal law for an illegal dumping incident, which might include toxic waste, on BLM lands is 12 months in jail and a $100,000 fine.

According to Ruben Conde, chief ranger for the Bureau of Land Management Colorado District, all of his rangers under his command throughout Arizona continually search for illegal dump sites in hopes of catching those responsible.

There is one easy solution to the problem of trash in the areas managed by BLM, which is actually our public land and other areas such as Lake Meade Recreational Area, state trust lands and any area you might he traveling across. Take a large plastic bag when hiking, camping or just traveling through those areas. Bring out your trash and some that has been dropped by other visitors. It doesn't take that much effort to bend over and pick up those pieces of paper, water bottles, trash and beer cans someone else thoughtlessly left behind.

If each visitor picked up just a small portion of the garbage randomly discarded by those who don't care about our environment, then Mohave County will continue to be as picturesque as they are now.

But the good news is that our county doesn't have as bad a litter problem as other counties. That's because many of our local residents donate their time to pick up trash. This is evidenced by the signs that dot the sides of our highways indicating a stretch of highway is cleaned by a particular group, company or an individual family.

Anyone interested in the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Adopt-A-Highway Program should contact the Kingman ADOT District Office at (928) 681-6019. Most city municipalities also have similar programs and if you are interested in participating in a road clean-up program, contact your city officials.

Mohave County also has a program wherein residents can "adopt" a two-mile stretch of a county road and keep it trash free. Individuals interested in volunteering to keep a particular stretch of county road clean of trash should contact the Mohave County Road Department at (928) 757-0905.

We, the residents of Mohave County, need to take that extra effort to keep our area beautiful. Take pride in what we have. Nobody wants to vacation or live in a dump!