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CAT team looks at county-wide cleanup

by Linda Hiller

It’s dirty, dangerous and disgusting, and it’s against the law.

Illegal dumping irks everyone but (apparently) the dumpers, and rather than sit by and feel powerless, community members will soon have the opportunity to take matters into their own hands through the recently-formed Community Action Team.

Representatives from CAT, Douglas County and the community-at-large met recently to formulate a plan for what organizers hope will turn out to be the first of many community clean-up days.

Gardnerville Ranchos resident Patrick Luzzi has lived in a southernmost Ranchos neighborhood for the past four years. From his kitchen, the Luzzi family can look out onto acres of scenic U.S. Forest Service land.

They also have a bird’s-eye view of the illegal dumping going on in what is practically their backyard.

n Trash begets trash. “I’ve been watching this dumping go on for years and it seems like it’s been getting worse,” he said. “It seems like once there’s a pile of garbage out there, it attracts other garbage to be dumped in that spot.”

Over the years, Luzzi has tried several tactics to stop the dumping problem and clean up the area, including confronting people in the act of dumping and reporting license plates to the sheriff’s office, but when he learned of the Community Action Team, he thought it might finally be an effective venue to get to a more permanent solution.

“My original intent in going to the Community Action Team was to get more involved with the system,” he said. “In the past, when dumpers got caught, by the time their case got to court, they gave the judge their song and dance and got off without much of a penalty. I was frustrated.”

With the assistance of Douglas County Code Enforcement Officer, Kirk Streeter, Luzzi drew up a proposal for an “illegal dumping action team,” which was then accepted by CAT.

During last week’s organizational meeting, CAT representatives including Streeter, John Lufrano, Barbara Smallwood and Scott Jackson agreed the clean-up project could be viable and eventually spread to all neighborhoods wishing to have their own clean-up days.

“There’s no reason we can’t do clean-up projects in every part of the Valley,” Streeter said. “We’re just looking at this as a pilot program.”

n Desert dumping laws. Governed by Douglas County, the law states, “it is unlawful for any person to dump, spill, throw, place or bury in any parcel of land, lots, street, highway, gutter, or any alley or in any water or stream or in any canal or ditch within Douglas County, any garbage, rubbish, waste matter, or abandoned vehicle or any other deleterious or offensive substances.”

Conviction of illegal dumping is a misdemeanor, Streeter said, and can result in a fine up to $500 or jail time.

So-called “green dumping,” of plant materials such as grass clippings or tree trimmings is also illegal. Luzzi said this category of discarded material seems to be increasing and he wondered if people understand that piles of grass and tree clippings can be just as ugly and harmful to the environment as an old appliance.

“The piles of grass just sit there and smell,” he said. “They also bring in weed seeds not native to the desert.”

Luzzi said he has seen plastic cans of oil riddled with bullet holes and obvious signs that oil leaked out of the containers, live shotgun shells that his son’s friends brought in one time during a sleepover and strange animal body parts – all strewn across the desert south of the Ranchos.

n What you can do. Rather than seethe, witnesses to illegal dumping can take matters into their own hands by being observant: record the license plate number, vehicle and descriptions of whoever is seen dumping. These figures can then be turned in to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Streeter said a revised system of dealing with the reported offenders may soon be in place – where a summons or subpoena, requiring a more thorough report from the officer, is automatically issued to make sure the offending garbage tossers get penalized appropriately.

The next CAT meeting will be at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 23, DCSO training room, in the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center across from Bently Nevada. The public is welcome to attend.

The first clean-up day tentatively is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, and will include an area south of the Gardnerville Ranchos, off Long Valley Road and Tillman Lane. The project is expected to take no more than six hours.

For information on either participating in the upcoming clean-up day in September or suggesting another neighborhood for the next project, call Taunee Fujii, 782-6210.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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