Breckenridge Texan

City grapples with illegal dumping, plans cleanup week

City grapples with illegal dumping, plans cleanup week
April 13
16:05 2018

Illegal dumping in the Breckenridge area has become a big problem, a problem that costs every citizen when tax dollars must be spent to clean up the mess, according to city employees. The city is working to address the problem by cracking down on the people doing the dumping and by providing options to help residents get rid of items that are commonly found at the dump sites.

“There’s been a rise (in dumping). They’re dumping all over…county, city; they’re not even going outside the city limits anymore,” said Houston Satterwhite, the City of Breckenridge public works director whose crews end up having to clean up many of the illegal dump sites.

Each time a city crew has to cleanup an illegal dump site, it costs about $200-$300 in tax dollars, according to the Breckenridge Public Works Director. (Photo courtesy of Ken Strain/City of Breckenridge)

Satterwhite estimates it costs the city around $200 to $300 to have his crew go out and clean up one of the dump areas. Additionally, each cleanup project takes the employees off of other projects, such as patching potholes.

“It cost us between $200 to $300 to go clean up stuff somebody dumps out of there by the time I put guys in dump trucks and loaders,” he said. “If we can figure out who it is, then we’ll bill them for the cleanup. But, most to the time, you can’t figure out who it is because they’re smart enough not to leave anything with an address on it.”

Breckenridge City Manager Andy McCuistion said city crews will handle the small dumping areas that have to be cleaned up, but sometimes there are big areas that require the city to hire a contractor to clean up.

Precinct 1 Stephens County Commissioner D.C. “Button” Sikes said there are sometimes problems with people dumping out in the county also. He said, for example, on Tuesday county employees picked up 21 old tires that had been dumped.

Bulk items, such as the ones pictured here, dumped illegally at the end of a Breckenridge street, can be picked up at city residents’ homes four times a year through the trash collection service’s bulk pickup program. (Photo courtesy of Ken Strain/City of Breckenridge)

“They’ll just haul a bunch of tires out there and dump them,” he said. “Then we have to get them out of the road. We haul them to Abilene and have to pay to get rid of them. They charge us by the ton. It runs into quite a bit of money every truck load.”

Sikes said if they are able to find some way of identifying who is responsible for the illegal dumping they will turn that information over to the Stephens County Sheriff’s Department. “They’ve been real good about hunting them down,” he said.

Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney, whose office is responsible for enforcing code violations, said the city is also cracking down on people who are dumping within the city limits. He said they are using surveillance cameras in some areas and have been able to catch people dumping.

He said when they do catch somebody, the city’s first option is to have the person clean up what they dumped and dispose of it properly or they will move forward with filing charges against them under the Clean Air Act. Chaney said fines under those laws can go as high as $120,000 per incident, depending on what kind of waste is dumped. He also said any load that is dumped that is more than 50 pounds or larger than a five-gallon bucket is considered a felony.

“The County roads, the end of the city limits, that’s not disposal sites, and that includes dead animals.” he said. “We’re done messing around; we’re trying to enforce this.”

Chaney said because they are using surveillance cameras, when somebody receives a fine, they will have their picture attached to the fine.

“There’s not going to be any doubt as to who it was,” he said. “We’ve had our surveillance cameras tampered with; we’ve had them moved and that’s a violation.”

Additionally, Cheney said, if somebody loans their vehicle to somebody else to use for illegal dumping and the license plate is tracked back to the trash dumping, the car’s owner will be held liable for the dumping. too.

In addition to using surveillance cameras, Cheney said, they also sometimes depend on residents in the areas where the dumping takes place to alert them about the dumping. However, he said sometimes the trash is dumped in areas where there are no houses.

City residents have several options for legally disposing of items that are too big for their regular trash cans, including taking items to the convenience station, taking advantage of the quarterly bulk pickup service and participating in city-wide cleanup days.

Convenience Station

McCuistion said city or county residents can bring items to the City’s Convenience Station on the Industrial Loop (FM 287) during their regular hours, which are 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. However, he said, they don’t allow constructions materials and certain types of things, like batteries and chemicals.

The cost for city residents to take bulk items to the convenience station is $21.50 per cubic yard (27 cubic feet – 3-feet-by-3-feet-by-3-feet).

Because the city does not have a landfill, McCuistion said, everything that’s taken in at the convenience station has to be dumped into roll-off dumpsters that are then taken to Abilene, where the city has to pay for the disposal.

“Those roll-offs cost close to $500 a piece,” he said. “The fees we charge are just to try and break even on the roll-offs. We don’t try to make any money on that, but we do get complaints occasionally how much it costs, but that’s just what it costs us, so much a cubic yard.”

Quarterly bulk pickup service

Additionally, for city trash customers, there is a bulk pickup each quarter when they can have three large items picked up. McCuistion said the service used to be provided on a monthly basis, but when the city renegotiated its last municipal solid waste contract with Republic Services that changed it to quarterly to decrease the rates a little bit.

The quarterly bulk pickup days are scheduled for each section of the city. That information is available on the City’s website or by calling the City at 254-559-7249.

City and county brush pickup

In addition to the quarterly bulk trash pickups, the city also works in conjunction with the county every spring and fall to provide a brush cleanup. During that time, city and county residents can put brush and limbs out on their curbs and it will be picked up and hauled off.

Sikes said during the cleanups, the county will pick up the brush on the south side of U.S. Highway 180 and the city picks up the brush on north side of U.S. Highway 180.

“We get a bunch of truck loads of stuff,” he said. “You’d be surprised how much stuff we get.”

He said they usually don’t pick up brush from people who live way out in the county because they normally have a place to put their brush. However, he said, they’ll pick up areas in the county along U.S. Highway 180 and out in the Hubbard Creek Lake areas.

City-wide cleanup

One step the city is taking this month to help residents get rid of large items that are often found at some of the illegal dump sites is the city-wide cleanup during the week of April 23-28. During that time, the city’s waste disposal service will provide curbside pickup for up to five bulk items.

“That’s the stuff you can’t get rid of, your couches your mattresses, any large items like that,” Chaney said. “That’s going to be free. We’re also having the convenience station open and (residents can take) those large items out there, too, for free.”

Old tires and electronics, such as TVs, will not be taken at the cleanup in April, but the city has scheduled another cleanup in May that is specifically designed for old tires and electronics.

“(In May) we’re going to do tires and electronics and bring in two extra containers,” Chaney said. “It’ll go for a week.”

McCuistion said the cleanup for tires and old electronic is being paid for by a grant from the Leon Bosque Resource, Conservation & Development Council. He said they provided the city with an $8,000 grant for old tire disposal and $5,000 for the recycling old electronic devices. He said in addition to providing the funding, the group is also handling all the arrangements to contract and bring in the trailers for the tires and electronic device disposal.

Cheney said the city hopes the two cleanups will help stem some of the illegal dumping,

For more details on the upcoming city-wide cleanup, including specifics about what is allowed for curbside service, etc., click here for the Breckenridge Texan article.

 

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Large trash items litter the sides of the road on South Live Oak Street in Breckenridge. Fines for illegal dumping can be as high as $120,000, according to Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney, whose office is responsible for enforcing code violations. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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