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Harris County Is Asking For The Public’s Help To Fight Illegal Dumping

Authorities say some of the problem is caused by trash haulers who are trying to avoid landfill fees.

The Precinct One Constable’s Office handles environmental crimes for all of Harris County. Last year it filed close to 400 illegal dumping charges, cases where trash and tires were left piled on vacant lots and in ditches. So far this year they’re investigating about 60 cases.

Constable Alan Rosen said some of the problem is caused by private trash haulers who don’t want to take their loads to a commercial landfill where they’d have to pay a fee.

“If you were to go to one of the commercial landfills and actually weigh the material that you are hauling there’s a cost associated with it,” said Rosen. “So people figure this will be pure profit if I just dump it right here.”

Rosen said the most common items found at illegal dump sites include furniture, construction debris, and appliances. They also find a lot of household trash.

“When there’s a small dumping site that happens other people think that’s a place where they can dump stuff too,” added Rosen. “And then it grows and grows and grows.”

Another common sight in illegal dumps is discarded tires. Rosen said they’re especially problematic.

“Because often they have water after a rain that stays on the inside of the tire and that helps breed mosquitos,” explained Rosen. “Rodents and animals live inside those tires, snakes and things, and that can sometimes be dangerous to our children.”

And Rosen pointed out that tires don’t biodegrade like other materials. “It’s very difficult and it’s very costly to remediate big tire dumping locations.”

Rosen said they’ve now deployed 100 undercover cameras to catch people dumping illegally. He said on one occasion they caught suspects on camera trying to dump a stolen ATM machine. They’ve also spotted people attempting to get rid of a marijuana growing operation.

“We have caught people burning their car for insurance so it’s not just illegal dumping that we’re catching on these cameras,” said Rosen. We also catch people doing other illegal behavior.”

So what should a person do if they see illegal dumping in their neighborhood? Rosen said don’t confront anyone, but get pictures and video if possible.

The number to call to report environmental crimes in Harris County is 832-927-1567.

To learn about the county’s efforts to educate citizens on illegal dumping you can call 713-755-3372.

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Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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