San Antonio – You’ve probably seen it — junk dumped by the road, as if someone didn’t know or try to find out what else to do.
The KSAT Explains team found the junk along a quiet residential street near Loop 410 and Rigsby Avenue. Mattresses, toilets, old carpets, car seats and paint cans are piled up in the vacant lot.
That’s the norm, says Andrew Gutierrez, assistant director of solid waste management for the city of San Antonio.
“Contractor debris, buckets of paint, chemicals, carpets, mattresses, household trash – this is typical of what you see in an illegal dump,” Gutierrez said.
On this particular day, city officials were cleaning up the mess.
“This isn’t really necessary as there are many options for disposing of unwanted items,” Gutierrez said.
And yet, it’s still happening everywhere in San Antonio. Not only on the city streets. Also major highways.
“A lot of the big items we see are probably mattresses and sofas,” said Laura Lopez of the Texas Department of Transportation. “Trash is a big problem in Texas.”
$57 million problem
I have a big problem with the hefty price tag. In 2021, TxDOT spent his $57 million on picking up litter.
“If you think about it, that’s money that can also be used to repair and maintain highways,” Lopez said.
TxDOT is responsible for collecting anything dumped along state highways. Contracted with an external service that picks up cargo twice a month.
If something is dumped on the highway and it raises a safety concern, Lopez says TxDOT will take care of it as soon as possible.
Unexpected accidents or carelessness can cause things to fall.
“Many of the large items found on the highway come from trucks where the items are not securely loaded onto the vehicle,” Lopez said.
However, junk can also be intentionally dumped, such as at an illegal dump near 410 & Rigsby. And on city streets, it’s the city’s solid waste management department that picks it up.
“We get a lot of information through public records, 311s, illegal dumping reports,” Gutierrez said. “So you have to make a list every day, and the driver comes out, the crew comes out, and you clean it up.”
However, there are also places where we know that illegal dumping is repeated. Crew members don’t have to wait for someone to call them. They head to hot spots every week.
Gutierrez said the best way to report illegal dumping to the city is to call 311.
“As soon as you get the information, it’s very immediate,” he said. “We will respond within 24-48 hours.”
2,300 tons of garbage
City officials picked up 2,232 tons of illegally dumped trash in 2021. They made 8,388 stops to check for illegal dumping. Gutierrez estimates that disposal costs that will ultimately be passed on to you, the taxpayer, range from $75,000 to $80,000.
The junk is sent to a landfill, but the crew tries to recycle as much as they can. You can also change the brush to multi.
“But there aren’t many items out there that can be recycled, as they are here,” Gutierrez said of the junk dumped near 410 & Rigsby. They can be in storm drains and waterways and have a negative impact on the environment. ”
Anything large or small that is found dumping trash along a state highway can result in a fine of up to $500. For repeat offenses, he accelerates up to $2,000.
In urban areas, fines range from approximately $100 to $500.
But the reality of someone facing a penalty is rare, Gutierrez admits.
“We met someone – they gave us the license plate. he said. “It’s usually done early in the morning or late at night, so not many people catch people doing this.”
find the answer
The city’s latest budget approved funding for a team dedicated to removing illegal dumps. In the past, solid waste drained resources wherever possible and distracted crews from other tasks.
Budget allocation is hoped to be part of the answer to the thorny problem of illegal dumping, but answering the question of why anyone would do it in the first place is far more complex, largely because there are alternatives. is.
The city hosts curbside collections of brushes and bulky items twice each year. Four times a year he can bring large pieces of garbage to the landfill for free disposal.
It has a domestic hazardous waste drop-off center and four annual traveling events around the city.
You can also call 311 to schedule an “off-cycle” collection. City officials will come to pick up the items you want to dispose of for a fee. For more information, www.sanantonio.gov/swmd.
“It’s very frustrating. This affects everyone,” Gutierrez said. “It hurts the value of their property. It’s a breeding ground for pests, mosquitoes, flies and disease-carrying rodents. .”
See more stories from KSAT Explains click here.
Copyright 2022 by KSAT – All rights reserved.