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County goes after illegal dumpers

by Linda Hiller

How would you like it if someone came into your yard, dumped their garbage all over your lawn and left?

That’s how Gardnerville Ranchos resident Diane Campbell felt a few days ago when she and husband Chuck came upon an unsightly dump in the middle of the Pine Nuts while exercising their three llamas and trying to enjoy the beautiful scenery and fresh winter air.

“We’ve walked past little dumps before, but this one made me mad because I happened to see some medical waste there – some pills and such – and I was so glad our garbage-eating dog wasn’t there with us,” she said. “I got to thinking about the wildlife out there, though, and what would happen if they were to eat any of those pills? And how about other people’s kids and pets? I buried some of the pills under a tire out there, but I just had to call someone this time.”

– Names, addresses. Campbell contacted Douglas County Code Enforcement Officer Kirk Streeter, told him about the dump and said she had picked up cards with names and addresses on them at the site.

“There’s nothing I like more than catching illegal dumpers,” Streeter said. He outlined some of the options for dealing with the refuse – finding the dumpers through the cards Campbell had found, getting the violators to clean it up, calling on the Community Action Team to organize a cleanup if the dumpers couldn’t be located – but first, he needed to see the dump.

The Campbells led Streeter out Pinenut Road, bypassing Dump Road which led straight to the county transfer station where the dumpers could have legally disposed of their garbage for what Streeter and Campbell estimated would have been less than $20.

A couple of miles down the road, the trio pulled off and retraced the steps the Campbells had taken a few days before. Following the moose-like llama tracks up the hill about a mile, passing several smaller dumps along the way – carpeting, shingles, cement waste, etc. – they showed Streeter the “medicine dump,” wet from the recent rain.

Packets of pills labeled “alfemetildopa,” which looked like they originated in Mexico, were still in evidence, and among the garbage were Christmas lights and decorations, a dismantled artificial tree, tires, car batteries, washed-out Polaroids, a doll head and many other toy items for babies and older children.

Following the field trip to the dump, Streeter took the pill packets to a pharmacist and was told that one of the medications was for high blood pressure and the other could be a steroid.

One of the two names on the cards led nowhere, but the other was a man in his 60s living in the central part of the Valley. Streeter contacted the man, but since he spoke no English, couldn’t get any information. He contacted the man’s daughter, who lives in Carson City. After talking to her father, she told Streeter that he admitted to illegally dumping at that site.

Streeter said the case will be turned over to the district attorney’s office. Conviction of illegal dumping is a misdemeanor, Streeter said, and can carry consequences of a fine up to $1,000 and/or jail time.

Catching illegal dumpers is only a small part of Streeter’s job enforcing the county code. In one year, he said, he may only chase a half dozen or so cases, but he does investigate every reported Douglas County dump site – in the desert, mountains or in town – and refers out-of-the-area calls to the proper authorities.

– Report it. If you have information on illegal dumpers or if there’s a pile of garbage that is getting to you like it did to Diane Campbell, call Streeter at 782-6214.

If you see someone dumping illegally, Streeter said it is best to try and get a license and vehicle description, call the Sheriff’s Office, 782-9935, and then his office.

The Douglas County Transfer Station is located on Dump Road south of Gardnerville. The charge for dumping is based on weight, $53.88 per ton. Dump hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Monday. For more information, call 782-3925.

Campbell said she was tempted to look up the people whose names were on the cards she found and go out there herself to have a talking-to with them, but she thought better of it.

“I’ve wised up as I’ve gotten older,” she said. “But it just assaulted my senses. To me, it goes hand in hand with the lessons we teach our children about respect – it’s your planet, it’s your place and you should take care of it. It felt like it was just plopped on my front lawn. I guess it was the medication that just put me over the edge.”