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Triple-XJ
10-11-2006, 08:06 AM
Please read this and post your comments, questions and suggestions.

Desert, washes marred by trash
Tracking offenders is frustrating cities, which foot cleanup

Shaun McKinnon
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 11, 2006 12:00 AM


Illegal dumpers are fouling Arizona's urban washes, riverbeds and desert preserves with teetering piles of construction debris, household appliances and trash laced with hazardous materials.

The unlawful dumps not only ruin views and litter the landscape, they also threaten the health and safety of people who live or play in the areas and, over time, pollute the ground and groundwater.

Overworked authorities can only guess at the scope of the problem, but they know growth fuels dumping as neighborhoods creep closer to once-remote dumpsites and new development clears fresh paths for the dumpers. advertisement




"We're seeing it everywhere," said Claire Miller, manager of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale. "With all the dirt roads, you don't have to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. You just get out of view, then boom, off goes the refrigerator. These are places that are relatively easy to get to but have some sense of being hidden out of the way."

The mountains of trash dumped in the desert can overwhelm even the largest cities, which already struggle to keep trash away from streets and neighborhoods. But more frustrating is the attempt to track the dumpers, who slip in and out of remote areas, leaving enforcers chasing ghosts.

Dumping trash in washes and deserts is illegal - fines range from $2,000 or more in some cities to $100,000 and prison time on protected public lands - but dumpers usually elude capture. Unless there is a witness or the trash contains identifying material, authorities rarely find the offenders.

The result is a growing bill for taxpayers when the government steps in or long, expensive days of cleanup for landowners left with the mess.


Dumping is nothing new
Residents have been dumping trash in washes and riverbeds as long as they've lived here. Most of the people who work on the problem can recall finding cars dating to the 1950s, rusted iceboxes or vintage beer bottles. The problem simply multiplies with the population.

"People do it, I think, for one of a couple of reasons," said Mike Lopker, deputy public-works director for Phoenix. "One, they don't want to pay a landfill fee. Or they're lazy and don't want to have to deal with what they have. Or maybe they're ignorant of the law. But I'll say this over and over: Illegal dumping is a crime."

The threats vary depending on the area and the type of trash: Landscape debris, a common find in open desert areas, lands on the ground as almost instant tinder, raising fire danger. Construction debris, from blocks of broken concrete to scraps of lumber and drywall, creates hazards for hikers or other land users.

One of the riskiest places to dump trash is in what most officials rate as the most inviting: washes or dry riverbeds. Runoff from storms can carry the trash downstream or break it down and let harmful pollutants seep into the underground water supply.

"There could be no worse place to put it," said Sandy Bahr, conservation outreach director for the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon chapter. "That's where the wildlife congregate, where the water comes through and, unfortunately, where trash tends to get dumped."

The offenders run the gamut from contractors and landscapers to individuals with a pickup full of hard to dispose of materials. An increasing threat comes from border crossers who are forced by their smugglers to leave behind their belongings.

Sandi Dujean stumbled over such a site near Lake Pleasant and was horrified at the knee-deep mounds of clothing, bags, food containers and other debris.

"I really had no idea what it was," she said. "I thought it might be homeless people. It totally took me by surprise."

Volunteers, working with the Bureau of Land Management, filled seven dumpsters with trash during the summer.


Overwhelmed cities
Valley cities often find themselves overwhelmed by illegal dumpers. Code enforcement departments or police or other authorities must add the problem to other duties.

Almost every city relies heavily on residents to call in complaints.

The easiest cases are those reported when the dumping is still taking place. If that happens, "we forward the call to the police, and they investigate it as a misdemeanor offense," said Malcolm Hankins, Scottsdale's code enforcement manager.

More often, his office is left to respond to reports of trash already left behind.

"Construction debris is one I'm dealing with today," Hankins said. "Glass, wood, that sort of thing. We will look for any obvious construction going on in the immediate area."

One of the harder-hit areas in recent years is Peoria's wide-open northern end, a mish-mash of state trust land, private property and areas overseen by the BLM. The spread of new neighborhoods has raised the threat to residents.

"A lot of these desert areas are close to neighborhoods now," said Mike Tellef, a spokesman for the Peoria Police Department, which handles many dumping reports. "That makes it a safety hazard to people. And it's a spiraling effect. When one person gets it started, we get more calls."

Peoria works with other agencies to clean up badly littered sites, he said. "We'll get volunteers together, but unfortunately, it's one of those things where you have to go back every year or so."

Most cities don't count desert dumping as a separate code violation, which makes defining the problem with numbers difficult. Phoenix counted more than 4,000 illegal dumping complaints last year, but many of those took place in alleys or other areas inside the developed cities.

State, city and federal agencies will prosecute people who dump illegally. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality last month fined a Yuma man $10,000 for dumping asbestos-laced trash on undeveloped land.

But tracking the criminals is difficult, if not nearly impossible. "If people call us, we'll follow up, do our best detective work and deal with them," Phoenix's Lopker said. "But, frankly, most of our follow-up comes in situations where we can get a license plate and vehicle description."

If the trash lands on publicly owned lands, the government will clean it up, but in most cases, if dumpers strike private property, the owner is responsible.


Getting people involved
Some jurisdictions are attacking the problem with a combination of government workers and volunteers. Pinal County recently kicked off a renewed effort to track down and prosecute illegal dumpers. Offenders can now be prosecuted in civil courts, where it is easier to obtain a conviction.

"This is a quality-of-life issue that has an impact, not just on the landowners and managers where the dumping takes place, but on all the citizens of Pinal County," County Sheriff Chris Vasquez said.

A group of Pinal residents also formed a task force to find more ways of going after dumpers and cleaning up the sites. One of the recommendations was an intense public education campaign to spread the message that the communities won't accept illegal dumping.

The BLM, which oversees vast tracts of Arizona's public lands, stepped up its anti-dumping efforts this year and will increase education and outreach. The BLM faces issues more dangerous than many cities, including damage caused by border crossers and trash and debris left behind by people producing illegal drugs.

Scottsdale enlisted its own residents to patrol and watch over its McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which spread across thousands of acres in the city's northern reaches. More than 100 stewards regularly walk the land, look for trash, flag it and then help clean it up.

"I go out very early," said Jane Rau, co-founder of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and now one of its most dedicated stewards. "That's how you find the odd things, like the golf cart from Troon North. It had been stolen and brought out there. I find beer bottles and plumbing and broken windshields. It's a constant thing."

The trash discourages her, but the volunteering has kept her young into her 80s, Rau said. "Lots of people come out here. There are good ones and bad ones, and there isn't much we can do to control the bad ones," she said. "All you do is just keep cleaning up."

roger
10-11-2006, 09:20 AM
Unfortunately, that's nothing us wheelers don't already know. :mad:

FrenchChili
10-11-2006, 09:37 AM
Once the main areas get closed/gated/controlled, illegal dumpsters will move on to trash other areas...can a 'wide spread plan' be done?or is that too much money...

I don't mind chipping in $ sometimes to access my favorite wheeling/outdoor places, but I don't want to $ everywhere in the future.

My1stJeep
10-11-2006, 09:57 AM
It was nice to see some of the blame where it belongs, I am glad she did not call them OHV or tie off roading into it.

Is there a contact email for the reporter? Since it is a hot button for her, I think we should invite her to all of our area clean ups, and don't we have one coming up next month????

corwyyn
10-11-2006, 11:52 AM
IIs there a contact email for the reporter? Since it is a hot button for her, I think we should invite her to all of our area clean ups, and don't we have one coming up next month????
No contact info given in the article, but on the right side-bar there is a link to post pictures of trash in the desert. May be a good idea to post pics from the cleanups with clear annotation of WHO is doing the clean-up. I'd love to go out this weekend but I'll be in Albuquerque visiting my mother and trying to get pictures of the balloons :cool:

Triple-XJ
10-11-2006, 12:05 PM
This was taken off the AZ Central fourm.

Your comments
People who litter the valley roads and streets do not necessarily share the same mentality as desert dumpers. Folks, city trash gets cleaned up regularly!!! Take a good look around you. In fact, many people make a living cleaning up and thus, help to boost our local economy. We are talking apples and oranges here, OR McDonalds bags and refrigerators, if you like. Visit a desert dump site (from the 50's?), and you will see this is not the same thing. Thank you Louis6706 - and your comrads, we desert lovers salute you. (Tom8265, October 11, 2006 10:22AM)
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Having lived in Arizona most of my life, I find traveling around in Arizona very disheartening. I do take my kids out and pick up trash when it's starts piling up so high on the sides of the road and the places we frequent, that I just can't stand it any more, just to have empty beer and pop cans strewn all over by the next week. What exactly are we teaching our kids about respecting the environment, others and themselves? Geez. (Windy2343, October 11, 2006 10:20AM)
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This is simply an expansion of the pigs that throw McDonald's bags out of their cars. If you don't respect yourself, you don't respect your surroundings. Even animals don't crap where they live. (6640, October 11, 2006 09:54AM)
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I volunteer with my local 4x4 group and BLM. We host "Clean-ups" where at least 30-40 people show up at a site we use for off road recreation. We collect all of the trash in the area and throw it into massive dumpsters that BLM supplies. BLM also supplies plastic bags, water, and free lunch. We also drag any vehicles or other large articles of trash out of the desert. The last cleanup effort I attended, we reomoved enough debris to fill 7 (semi-truck trailer sized) dumpsters, and we recovered 11 vehicles, a jet-skii, and countless appliances. That was 4 hours worth of work, in the Table Mesa recreation area.

Do you use our deserts for recreation? Motorcycles, ATV's, Hiking, etc? If so, get out there and help!! Keep our deserts beautiful and our land accessible! BLM will close any accessible areas that are being abused without a second thought! (louis6706, October 11, 2006 09:49AM)--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Why won't the Republic run a story about the filthy mess the illegal aliens leave behind on their illegal trips to AZ? Oh wait I forgot, they only run positive stories about them, NEVER any of the many negatives.

If you've ever seen any pictures of it, it dwarfs the illegal dumping problem.

That said, the idiots responsible for this illegal dumping should be fined, then forced to spend a few weekends cleaning up the area they dumped in. The problem is that it's very difficult to catch them. Even if you witness someone doing it, I doubt law enforcement would actually do anything about it. And what are the chances of someone getting caught in the act by law enforcement? Probably next to nothing. (Steve113, October 11, 2006 09:25AM)
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Great article. As someone involved in the enviromental regulatory field, I find desert dumping particularly offensive. Not strictly because of the unsightlyness (desert packrats dont mind), but because it represents the shear ignorance and low-life, stupidity of a portion of society and just how many folks are members of that club. The fact is, it is so easy to make an alternative choice. The lesser of two evils perhaps, but I personally do not think that if such members chose to place 'desert' trash in the thousands of available dumpers, strewn throughout our valley, their actions would spawn a news article. I am confident even some readers are low-life members to the club. To those, try using that pee-brain and please make a better choice. You will find it easy.

But to catch someone in the act of desert dumping...ah yes, now wouldn't that be grand. (Tom8265, October 11, 2006 09:11AM)
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Too bad about the trash.

What I really want to comment about is the article titled 'Migrant laws keeping same-sex pairs apart', but commenting on that article is not allowed.

Concerning 'Migrant laws keeping same-sex pairs apart', I DON'T CARE. What, is it a slow news day? With so little of real import going on in the world, this stupid little story is what you think needs focus.

Arizona Repugnant, the name fits. (Clint2349, October 11, 2006

Triple-XJ
10-11-2006, 12:10 PM
I tried to post links to AZ Centeral, but couldnt get them to work.

BUT,
Here is the county's site
http://www.maricopa.gov/envsvc/water/illdump.asp

Here is the contact numbers posted by AZ. Central
To report illegal dumping

If you want to report an illegal dumpsite and you live:

? In unincorporated Maricopa County, call the complaint line at (602) 506-6616 or visit the Illegal Dumping Web site.

? In Phoenix, call (602) 262-7251. If you see someone dumping trash, call the Phoenix Police Crimestop at (602) 262-6151.

? In another Valley city, call the city offices directly. The customer service numbers often are listed on your water or trash bill.

DsrtJeeper
10-11-2006, 12:21 PM
I whitnessed and reported illegal dumpping out at 67th Ave and Happy Valley years ago. I even called a friend who was a pilot for the Phoenix PD. They did nothing and said that it was BLM's juristiction and that the BLM would have to press charges. I followed the dumpers home and got a license plate number and home adress. Still when reported; there was no action taken. :mad:

BS about it being hard to catch and prosecute the dumpers!!!

Why is it that you never see writeups about contractors tearing up every mountain in the valley, in the name of the allmighty buck?

Triple-XJ
10-11-2006, 12:33 PM
It was nice to see some of the blame where it belongs, I am glad she did not call them OHV or tie off roading into it.

Is there a contact email for the reporter? Since it is a hot button for her, I think we should invite her to all of our area clean ups, and don't we have one coming up next month????


You read my mind, I have a call and E-mail into he :p :)

1BLKJP
10-11-2006, 04:48 PM
Nice work on putting this up Geno. I saw it earlier today online and sent Shaun an email myself, also with the invitation to join us on any number of clean up operations.

Triple-XJ
10-11-2006, 08:18 PM
I volunteer with my local 4x4 group and BLM. We host "Clean-ups" where at least 30-40 people show up at a site we use for off road recreation. We collect all of the trash in the area and throw it into massive dumpsters that BLM supplies. BLM also supplies plastic bags, water, and free lunch. We also drag any vehicles or other large articles of trash out of the desert. The last cleanup effort I attended, we reomoved enough debris to fill 7 (semi-truck trailer sized) dumpsters, and we recovered 11 vehicles, a jet-skii, and countless appliances. That was 4 hours worth of work, in the Table Mesa recreation area.

Do you use our deserts for recreation? Motorcycles, ATV's, Hiking, etc? If so, get out there and help!! Keep our deserts beautiful and our land accessible! BLM will close any accessible areas that are being abused without a second thought! (louis6706, October 11, 2006 09:49AM)

I would like to know if this is the Louis I have wheeled with in the past?
He had a white XJ with so much flex that the coil fell out. :)

Triple-XJ
10-13-2006, 03:01 PM
:( :( :(

Migrant traffic shuts nature area
Security concerns cited for Buenos Aires border land

Corinne Purtill
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 13, 2006 12:00 AM

For the second time, protected land on Arizona's border with Mexico has closed to the public because of security concerns surrounding illegal immigration.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge closed 3,500 acres earlier this month, officials there announced this week.

Violence against immigrants and law enforcement officers is increasing on the refuge, which shares a 5.5-mile border with Mexico. The Border Patrol, National Guard and federal law enforcement officers stationed there have stepped up efforts in response. A metal vehicle barrier on the border is under construction.
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As a result, "it's just not a good place for people to be recreating right now," refuge manager Mitch Ellis said. "It's a crazy place to be."

Emergency closures at wildlife refuges are usually prompted by natural disasters like floods and last 30 days or less. But since the conditions that prompted the Buenos Aires closure show no signs of improving, the land will be indefinitely inaccessible to the public.

Originally established as a haven for the meek-mannered masked bobwhite quail, the 118,000-acre refuge has been ravaged by illegal-immigrant traffic in recent years.

More than 250,000 illegal immigrants entered the refuge in 2004 and 2005. Their footsteps and vehicles have cut more than 1,300 miles of trails through the native grassland, some of which could take more than a century to recover. The landscape is dotted with rusting, abandoned vehicles and tons of clothing and trash.

More than 85 percent of land along Arizona's border with Mexico is federal land. Buenos Aires is the second public space that has had to close because of problems with illegal immigration.

About one-third of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument remains closed to the public for security reasons since a park ranger was killed by a drug smuggler there in 2002.

Those familiar with the refuge said the closure is a sad but necessary step.

"We hate to see areas get closed, but we have such a problem close to the border that we don't want to put our hunters' lives in danger," said Gabriel Paz, an officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and organizer of a volunteer group that picks up trash at the refuge.

DsrtJeeper
10-14-2006, 01:18 AM
I guess Iraq was more important. :rolleyes: It's a damn shame.