Everyone pays for illegal dumping

On her walk in the desert behind her home in the Gardnerville Ranchos, Wendy Ridley-Derrig saw dining room chairs, a table, a desk, a monitor, printer and computer.

"We could have set up an office out there in the desert," she said.

She and her husband picked up what they found dumped and paid to take it to the transfer station themselves.

Ridley-Derrig said it's dismaying and discouraging to go for a walk in the desert near her home to enjoy the scenery and wildlife and come upon piles of debris.

She and friends were walking one evening when a pickup with a mattress drove past and returned empty a few minutes later.

Kirk Streeter, code enforcement officer for the county, recommends not confronting the dumpers in this case.

"The ideal thing is to catch them doing it or to get a description of car and driver or the license plate number and call the sheriff's office or code enforcement for the county," Streeter said.

"They'll be made to clean it up and I'll then follow them to the dump. The fine is a minimum of $500."

Stan Zuber, lead field office ranger at the Bureau of Land Management, said when identified, it becomes the responsibility of the owners of the dumped trash to remove it.

"If we identify who actually did the dumping and if we catch them, they get a federal citation from the BLM and a preassessed fine," Zuber said.

"They have to go to Magistrate court in Reno. The maximum can be one year in jail and a $100,000 fine, depending on the amount. Fines for the offense range from $300-500.

"It's cheaper to pay dump fees."

Sgt. Tom Mezzetta from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said citizens should call the office if they observe suspicious behavior.

"If you observed someone driving through the desert with a pickup laden with trash and then you see them without the trash, give a call," Mezzetta said. "We live here too and want to keep people from dumping trash."

If charged with the misdemeanor, dumpers could receive a sentence of six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.

"They're responsible for any damage and clean-up costs," he said. "Say they dump chemicals and soil and vegetation has to be removed, they have to pay for that too."

Mezzetta said it's against the law to dump household trash and, yes, lawn clippings are trash.

It's also against the law to drop items off at a thrift store after hours or to dump trash in a store's garbage receptacle. Violators will be charged with theft of service.

"Take it to the landfill - it's the only proper thing to do," Mezzetta said.

So what materials are accepted at the transfer station?

Douglas Disposal's transfer station on Pine Nut Road in Gardnerville accepts garbage, green waste, hazardous materials and recyclable materials.

The disposal company will make pick-ups of big items such as mattresses, water heaters and furniture for a fee of $25-35.

The recycle center at the Pine Nut Road station takes glass, plastic #1 and 2, cardboard, newspaper, mixed paper and junk mail materials at no charge. Car batteries and household batteries are accepted anytime the recycle center is open.

Waste oil and anti-freeze are accepted in 5-gallon containers. Hazardous materials such as paint and insecticides can be brought to the center after making an appointment with Douglas Disposal at 782-5713.

"We charge for fluorescent bulbs and TVs because nobody is reusing TVs - old TVs don't have reuse value but they are recycled," said Jeannie Lear, human resources manager with South Tahoe Refuse and Douglas Disposal. "The glass in the screens contains lead."

A vendor working with the refuse company takes Freon from refrigerators and leaded glass from computer monitors and television screens to recycle. Because the vendor takes such a variety of things, there's a possibility customers could be charged less in the future.

"I want to take a look at prices and make adjustments for what we're being charged," Lear said.

"Businesses are becoming more aware and people are moving to the Valley who expect certain services," Lear said about people who are appalled that curbside recycling, for instance, isn't available.

"As the demographics of the Valley changes, the services will improve and it's a lot better than 10 years ago."

The recycle center pays 27 cents/pound for aluminum and some groups work to recycle it for a good cause.

"We're limited in the Valley because of the size of the transfer station but we have community drop boxes at Scarselli, Meneley and Jacks Valley elementary schools, the Boy Scouts have one at Smith's and there's one at the animal shelter," said Lear.

"The animal shelter does well with the cans - people want to help animals in some way."

People use community receptacles for their trash, which is against the law to do. The price businesses have to pay to remove the extra garbage could be included in the services everyone pays for.

Lear said illegal dumping is frustrating, hard and heavy work.

"And expensive because we're paying our drivers and staff to pick up what's dumped," she said.

"We do a clean-up day for customers and allow them to put out extra in the spring," Lear said. "Community clean-up days would be a good idea but the county would have to approve it. It doesn't stop illegal dumping but it does raise public awareness."


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