Cell phone in hand, San Joaquin County Deputy Sheriff Charles Chatfield started taking pictures at the countryside along South Union Road.
The sky was blue with a spattering of cirrus clouds, and green corn fields all around.
Definitely a bucolic, pastoral and relaxing scene. But those were not the reasons the deputy sheriff wore the photographer’s hat around noon Friday. On the contrary, the chore was not quite so pleasant.
His camera was aimed at one of two mounds of trash scattered on the side of the road, some of which were so close to the edge that they posed a hazard to traffic. After taking photos of the first pile of garbage, he pushed the potentially dangerous rubbish away from the road before heading to the next dump a few yards away for another shooting session.
He actually had just come from a similar situation on Airport Way to the west directly from where he was on South Union Road. The culprit in that instance was driving a white pickup truck which was loaded with garbage that he dumped on the side of the road and then quickly drove away.
After taking the first pictures on Union Road, Chatfield tapped the request app on his cell phone and sent the picture to the target county department along with the address location. That request will tell the responsible county crew to go and pick up the garbage left by unscrupulous trash owners.
Chatfield said residents can go this same app route using their cell phones to report issues such as illegal garbage dumping and request for services. It is available 24/7.
Illegal garbage dumping a
growing problem every day
Illegal garbage dumping throughout San Joaquin County’s unincorporated areas is creating more than a million dollar financial stink to taxpayers. According to Public Works’ maintenance superintendent Troy Botts, this problem is costing the county “right about $1.1 million” a year.
“That’s the cost for just people (illegally) dumping trash, tires, sofas refrigerators, boats — you name it — anything you find in the house,” Botts said.
Debris related to home remodeling projects is the major problem. “Say, somebody wants to remodel their bathroom. Whoever they hired maybe were tired,” and simply dumped their trash on the roadside instead of going to the landfill.
“Tires are a huge problem. Third are household debris. Somebody cleans out the garage, and instead of going to the landfill,” they simply dump them on the road for someone to pick up their garbage, Botts said.
He commented, “I don’t know what mindset people have to think it’s okay to do that.”
What is said about this is that the dump station on South Austin Road “will take all that for free. If they go to the Public Works web page for Solid Waste Division, they can get a list of what they can take to the landfill for free — appliances (such as refrigerators), mattresses, tires — all that they’ll take for free,” Botts said.
The amount of illegal trash collected by county crews is up to 10 to 15 tons each time and requires backhoes to do the job. Up to a half-dozen workers are pulled out of regular maintenance jobs just to deal with this growing problem, Botts said.
“So you are taking away other road maintenance workers to assign to pick up debris.”
The financial hit on the county coffers to address the illegal-dumping issue covers not just manpower or labor but equipment and dumping fees as well.
Botts said, “I don’t have the current figures, but I believe in 2017 we picked up close to 800 tons of illegally dumped garbage. And I know we have more than that now. We are actively picking up illegally dumped debris every day with four to six employees” assigned to do just that every day.
This is not just a costly problem for the county but also for property owners who have to deal with getting rid of the trash dumped alongside their properties. Botts explained that the cleanup is the county’s responsibility if the offensive eyesores are left on what is called right-of-way area. On every roadway, there’s a right of way which extends off the side of the road. Anything beyond that toward the residents’ or farmers’ property is their responsibility.
“Right of way is an area on the side of the road that may hold utilities, maybe a ditch. It varies from every road. There’s not one set amount of footage. For example, one road may go 30 feet off the pavement; another road, it may be five feet off the pavement. In those (right of way) areas, we will respond to pick up the debris,” Botts said.
Update on the South Airport way illegal dumping suspect: the Sheriff’s Department called the Manteca Bulletin office to report that they eventually caught the illegal-dumpster person.
To report illegal dumping, or for more information, log on to https://www.sjgov.org › pubworks › repairs.