Illegally dumped junk costs state millions

April 27, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A lot of us are planning to do a little spring cleaning around the house, but sad to say, a lot of people will tidy-up at home by trashing our highways and roads. City and state crews are getting ready for the loads of illegally dumped furniture and appliances they'll have to haul away. It has become an even bigger problem in this recession.

It's a constant battle. The mattresses and hazardous waste keeps piling up around Christine Yanez's home in Oakland.

"It's a dead-end street, nobody is looking late at night. It's quiet. Nobody can see," says Yanez.

Sometimes, Yanez says she even catches them in the act.

"'We're going to report you,' and they're like 'I don't care.' They even dump garbage here at the garbage can from their apartments, from their house. They don't care," says Yanez.

"Any time the economy gets bad large items become more of a problem," says Bob Haus from Caltrans.

Last year, Caltrans says it spent $15 million cleaning up highways in the Bay Area. It spent $55 million statewide, mostly because people are trying to avoid the price of taking large items to the landfill.

"Like a mattress will cost you $20 to throw it away, so they end up throwing it in the street," says Andres, an Oakland resident.

A porcelain toilet costs $23 to discard at the dump. When people throw trash on city streets, it becomes a blight in neighborhoods, contaminates rivers and streams, drives down property values and causes traffic problems.

A set of couches left on the curb can turn into a man-made dam and when it rains, it can flood the streets and snarl traffic.

"It does happen fairly often in rainy weather like this," says Haus.

It costs Oakland about $800,000 a year to remove these items and the job never ends. Last year it received more than 11,000 calls for illegal dumping.

"And when you have to divert that much money to something that is preventable, it really is very frustrating for us and for a lot of people in California also," says Haus.

Lately, more people are sending pictures and video of illegal dumping to the public works department, but city officials say without a license plate number it's hard to prosecute.


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