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Tue, Nov. 19

Litterers trash clean-up effort<BR>

Cleanup efforts of a local environmental action group went off track when litterers turned two recyclable materials separation areas into illegal dump sites.

The Upper Agua Fria Watershed Partnership (UAWP) organized the Cordes area cleanup in March; spokesperson Mary Hoadley said she received several telephone calls regarding the mess about a week ago.

"We are in the middle of this process, of cleaning up around here. The last time I was here was May 10. We tried to have sensible piles of recyclable steel, recyclable tires. It was sorted," she said.

Apparently more than one person saw the recycling dumpsters as an opportunity to rid themselves of their own trash, at no cost to themselves.

Members of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and the state Land Department got involved after Cordes Lakes resident Michael Rodgers complained about the trash dumps.

Rodgers called YCSO deputies after the dumpsters became an illegal dumpsite for household trash and old appliances.

"Apparently there was a volunteer effort several weeks ago, coordinated by the UAWP. They gathered up all the old illegal dumps in this area and brought them back to some dumpsters," he said. "The only problem was that they left them there and people thought it was the place to dump."

UAWP began the project in March to help gather up and remove small trash dumpsites on State Trust land just east of Cordes Lakes.

Hoadley said she is upset that people saw the dumpsters as a ticket to dump on state land.

"This is not a community cleanup, where we are providing dumpsters and collection points," she said. "It's unfortunate that some people saw it and said, 'Oh, someone's helping us out. So we are going to bring our stuff here.' It is disheartening that even one person has decided to come out on to state land and take the liberty of dumping."

In addition to garbage, litterers also left hazardous waste including car batteries, chemicals, tires and dozens of used refrigerators.

Arizona State Land Department Environmental Resource and Trespass Manager Brad Geeck said he is conducting the investigation at the state level.

"By law, you cannot dump on state land and that's what's happening. I came out here and confirmed the fact that there is indeed a health issue, with the flies, and there is solid waste here that the state shouldn't be responsible for disposing of," he said. "There is also hazardous material here, tires and batteries, and we have rotting household garbage, and we are within 75 yards of a residence."

Geeck said he would pursue this case as far as possible.

"We are pulling out business receipts from several companies and, under state law, any quantity that is being dumped for commercial purposes is a Class 6 felony," he said. "I'm talking with the Sheriff's Office to see about criminal charges and dealing with the county attorney."

Rodgers said he worked for the past year trying to assist law enforcement agencies in locating people who dump trash illegally.

"They will leave their addresses, personal docu-ments and informational forms of who they are and where they live," he said. "I've been turning them over the the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office every chance I get. I tell them where the dump was and where I got the documents from."

YCSO deputy Kent Crantford declined to release details on the ongoing portion of the criminal investigation.

"We are pursuing every lead. That's all I can say at this time," he said.

Hoadley said she wants to enlist the offenders in helping with the clean-up effort.

"My plan was, when I noticed some boxes from a local tire company, to go to them and say, 'Now that you know this wasn't a good thing to do, how can you help us?'" she said.

Hoadley said she is going to recycle as much of the material as possible.

"We are going to get a flat-bed trailer and take them to the scrap steel place in Phoenix," she said. "But it takes time and effort to sort it all out."

Geeck said, because of the danger to the public, he ordered state workers and equipment to clear the site immediately.

"It's a health hazard," he said. "And the taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill."

(Contact the reporter at adraper@prescottaz.com.)

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