The subject of illegal dumping is an ever-present issue which in spite of multiple press releases, physical signage, warnings, and pleas to the public, never seems to fully disappear for good.
A steady problem in East County for years, much of the rural, wide-open space draws appeal as ideal locations for dumping unused furniture, mattresses, and household garbage. In fact, if statistics and eyewitness accounts are to be believed, the illegal dumping problem only seems to be intensifying in East Contra Costa County.
“I could be out walking on Empire Mine Road or at Black Diamond and see random, large appliances appear to have been dumped for no reason,” said Brentwood resident Roberto Flores. “Why make an area look trashy? It shows no respect for where you live or for the environment at all.”
The problem with illegal dumping of large household items and garbage is an ongoing issue in East Contra Costa County, which is seemingly getting progressively worse.
According to Oakley City Manager Assistant Nancy Marquez, the increasing amount of household furniture and garbage being unceremoniously dumped and abandoned on roadsides, rural areas, and open spaces may be attributed to the increase in cost of disposing trash and junk at landfills.
“It is easier for people to simply dump any trash and junk along roadways than to properly dispose of at a landfill,” said Marquez. “Especially on rural roads, where it is easy to dump items and drive away quickly.”
Antioch Code Enforcement Manager Curt Michael theorizes that several contributing factors to illegal dumping may include a lack of means to transport unwanted items to the dump, the cost of legally disposing unwanted items, or just plain laziness.
“Debris piles can contain a variety of environmental and safety hazards,” said Michael. “Therefore, city crews take appropriate precautions when abating the debris. Unfortunately, debris from illegal dumping can end up in the creeks that flow to the river, in addition to creating blight and reducing quality of life.”
According to Michael, in June 2018, approximately 866 cubic yards of debris was removed from city property in Antioch, which is equivalent to over 173 trailer loads of debris. Additionally, the City of Antioch has dedicated two full-time general laborers to removing illegally dumped debris from city property.
“I think it is a prevalent problem,” said Mark Goodwin, Chief of Staff for the Office of Supervisor Diane Burgis. “Comparing this year to last year, and certainly over the last few years, we have seen an increase in illegal dumping.”
While local police departments are involved in efforts to curtail and penalize those caught illegally dumping, the majority of the tracking, cleanup, and removal of debris is done by the cities’ abatement teams or public work crews, which are part of the cities’ Code Enforcement Divisions. The cities of Concord, Pittsburg, and Richmond all have dedicated officers specializing in illegal dumping.
“Junk haulers must have an Antioch Business License to operate in the city,” added Michael. “Debris piles are checked to see if any personal information can be obtained and if so, a Notice of Violation for illegal dumping will be issued.”
If individuals are caught in the act of dumping illegally, enforcement is primarily carried out by the local police departments, which includes a possible $1,000 fine.
A couple of notable incidents occurred in July when a motorist was spotted by surveillance cameras illegally dumping a large cardboard box at Laurel Ballfields Park in Oakley. Another individual was spotted illegally dumping garbage and other hazardous materials in a Discovery Bay neighborhood, some of which made their way into drainage systems–county Hazmat was called. Both suspects were eventually located and ordered to pay full restitution and/or aid with the cleanup.
However, despite its increasing prevalence, there are currently no new measures aimed at targeting illegal dumping at this time, due to a lack of resources. Despite this, citizens are still encouraged to report any illegal dumping activities to local authorities.
“The agencies in East Contra Costa County have few resources to enforce and monitor such illicit activities,” added Marquez. “The City of Oakley along with other municipalities in East Contra Costa County try to educate and inform the public on the subject of illegal dumping by all means possible.”
Additionally, city-sponsored cleanup events periodically occur where dumpsters are placed on streets at pre-determined locations in neighborhoods, at no charge to residents, for the purpose of assisting residents with legally disposing of unwanted items.
The City of Brentwood, for example, will host three free neighborhood cleanup events next month on Saturdays September 8, 15, and 22.
“Republic Services customers can request pick-up of bulky items such as mattresses, furniture, construction debris, landscape debris, e-waste, and large appliances,” added Michael. “Republic Services is able to assist residents with safe household hazardous waste disposal and also offers convenient at-home disposal solutions with their medical sharps and needle mail back kit.”
More information on the City of Antioch’s policy in regards to illegal dumping can be found at the following link: http://www.ci.antioch.ca.us/CityGov/CommDev/Code-Enforcement/illegal-dumping.htm.
For more information on Brentwood’s Neighborhood Cleanup Events in September, please visit https://www.brentwoodca.gov/gov/pw/recycling/events.asp.
Lastly, more detailed information on illegal dumping including resources on how to legally get rid of unwanted items (including hazardous materials) in Contra Costa County can be found at http://www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/depart/cd/recycle/illegal-dumping.htm.
An avid bay area sports fan, Sean’s favorite teams include the 49ers, Giants, Sharks, and Warriors.