Illegal dumping of trash and debris in Tucson, Arizona is a problem. Pima County and the city of Tucson routinely have issues with items such as plastic bags, bottles, mattresses, clothes, books and more being found in illegal dump sites. There are even more hazardous items being found, such as piles of tires and animal carcasses.

In Arizona, it is illegal to dispose of waste anywhere that could be hazardous to the public, or really anywhere that is not picked up by a permitted hauler or dropped at a certified landfill or transfer station. Nevertheless, over the past few years, residents of Pima County have filed more than 2,000 complaints with the county. An area nickname for the practice is “wildcat dumping”

Illegal dumping in Tucson has a variety of negative effects on the community and on the environment. They are safety hazards, can be breeding grounds for bacteria and disease carriers such as rodents, and can disrupt the habitats of nearby wildlife. For the residents, it can lower the value of their property and their quality of life, because nobody wants to live by a dumping ground!

When a complaint is filed, the dump sites are inspected, and violations are usually issued within a week if one is in order. Over the past few years, about 2 in 5 of these inspections have ultimately resulted in a violation.

K.C. Custer is an environmental investigator in Tucson. He goes out to the sites that have gotten complaints to inspect the area. He says they usually look for things that could lead them to identify the person who has dumped the debris. This could include anything with a name or an address.

“It used to be common, but not anymore,” he said. “Now they’re getting smarter.”

If somebody is identified as a violator, they are required to clean up their debris, pay fees at county court, and provide documentation of the waste being disposed of properly. The fees and deadlines vary depending on the severity of the situation. Repeat offenders could face more severe court fines or even time in jail. Unfortunately, if the violator isn’t identified, it falls on others in the community to clean up the area when it falls on public property.

“We usually work with the government entity associated with the property and either they do a cleanup or we help arrange a cleanup through the adult probation program,” said Beth Gorman, senior program manager at the PDEQ.

Over the past few years, the cleanup program has spent more than $735,000 on cleanup, court, staff, and other miscellaneous costs. There has been a total of 52 tons of waste removed from public property.

If dumping occurs on private property in Tucson, it falls on the owner of the land to remove the trash and debris.

If you’re a Tucsonan, do you see a problem with illegal dumping in your area? What do you think a viable solution would be? Let us know in the comments.