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County setting its sights on illegal dumping

April 14, 2014

Waste Management Superintendent Scott Eagan shows off his department’s Inyo Recycles shirt. Eagan recently proposed options for a county program to discourage illegal dumping on local land. Photo by Mike Gervais

Inyo County is exploring ways to keep litter bugs from trashing local landscapes and may be seeking the public’s help.
As local leaders consider ways to close a $400,000 budget gap in the Inyo County Solid Waste Department, which may include increased fees at local landfills, county staff is considering the idea of surveillance at known illegal dumping sites. Also proposed are increased fines and fees for those caught littering and the implementation of a tip line to help catch illegal dumpers.
On Tuesday, April 1, Integrated Waste Management Program Superintendent Scott Eagan provided a workshop for the Board of Supervisors, outlining some of the measures other counties across the state have taken to curb illegal dumping.
Eagan said Monday that many of the measures he discussed are not feasible in Inyo County, but he said he wanted to provide the board with a comprehensive look at what’s being done in other parts of the state.
Ultimately, Eagan said he recommended that the board consider adopting an ordinance that would provide fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense and as much as $2,000 and a month in jail for a second offense.
Eagan also recommended that the board approve an ordinance that would give Integrated Waste Management staff the authority to impose the fines, rather than routing that process through the judicial system.
Eagan explained that a streamlined fine process would save staff time and save taxpayers potentially costly court proceedings, as the county would be required to provide a prosecutor. But he also said that due process won’t be eliminated. “They would have the option of going before a judge,” Eagan said. “They can appeal” the fine.
Eagan said one of the challenges the county will face with the illegal dumping enforcement program is management of staff time and resources.
Many counties throughout the state document and monitor sites that are frequently used for illegal dumping. To implement that kind of program, Eagan said county staff would have to be trained on dumping enforcements and procedures.
In Sonoma County, the local government has set up a surveillance system at known dumping sites, with cameras that can record an illegal dumper’s face and license plate number.
Eagan said that program may be too expensive, or possibly too intrusive for Inyo County, but it is something for local leaders to consider.
“I’m just kind of showing what is working for other counties. It takes a lot to put together a program like this and it’s going to take everyone,” from local law enforcement, to county staffers to land management partners like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, for it to be successful, Eagan said.
Eagan is currently attempting to schedule a meeting with those two agencies to discuss how best to combine efforts.
But to make the program successful, Eagan said Inyo’s residents will play a crucial part in enforcement.
One low-cost way the county can catch litterbugs is to create a tip line and reward system for residents. Eagan said his department is proposing a $100 reward for anyone who provides enough evidence leading to the prosecution of an illegal dumper. “That’s part of having a good system, we need everyone on board,” Eagan said.
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius took that idea and ran with it, proposing a public shaming program that would get the names of local litterbugs out into the community. Arcularius suggested that those caught dumping illegally should appear in the “Crimewatch” section of the paper, with their name, and possibly a photo, printed.
Second District Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said that kind of program could be effective.
“If your name and picture got put in the paper for illegal dumping, you’d get run out of town,” he said.
Eagan said that the board has taken no action on his recommendations, but will be meeting in the near future to begin designing a program aimed at keeping county lands clear of garbage.

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