Trashing Carson City
Appeal Staff Writer
Old tires and nonworking refrigerators, dead car batteries and worn out hot water heaters … the list goes on. People dump trash illegally across the city, in canyons, the Carson River and semi-remote streets.
The problem is so bad that if the city were able to add an employee to deal exclusively with all the junk strewn around right now, it would keep that worker busy for three years, said Kevin McCoy, the city’s code-enforcement officer. “Easily.”
Dumping refuse illegally within Carson City is a misdemeanor offense, punishable with a fine of $1,000. Someone caught doing it for a third time could also be sent to jail for up to six months, McCoy said.
But those penalties aren’t proving to be much of a deterrent, and the city doesn’t have the money to hire more people.
“We get this kind of thing all the time,” said south Carson resident Michael Arnold, about the dumping near his home. He and his wife, Sharon, live on Old Clear Creek Road.
The Arnolds have found almost everything imaginable near their home since moving to the neighborhood in 1999. They have a breathtaking view of Clear Creek Canyon, an area that has become more trash-ridden since retailers and other businesses in north Douglas County started popping up in recent years, he said.
The couple sometimes paws through trash bags for clues about who might have been the dumper, including old bills or other documents.
Their recent discovery of a plastic bounce house, however, became a mission for the couple. Jim and a neighbor found a brand name and toll-free telephone number. Sharon did some investigating and discovered the toy had been produced by a company in Ontario, Canada, and is sold regionally at Costco, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Toys R Us.
“We get very tired of being on the receiving end of junk and paying end of removing it,” Sharon said.
This time, they want the person who dumped it to step up and incur the cost.
In east Carson, several areas are targeted by people who dump things they don’t want. Sedge Road has attracted all sorts of refuse, for example.
“The abuse happens at night,” said nearby resident Jim Paine. ‘It’s really bad.”
Paine likes to take walks. He’s gotten into the habit of taking a bag with him to pick up small pieces of trash he finds along the way, such as cans and bottles.
“If some people are made example of, then it’ll stop,” he said.
Paine would like to see more effort made to catch and punish people who dump trash. Picking up junk around the city would be suitable form of community service, even something prisoners could do.
“It might be a way to show people what the consequences are,” Paine said. “Nobody likes to clean up other’s people’s garbage.”
U.S. Forest Service employees don’t like dealing with other people’s garbage either.
“It eats up a considerable amount of our time, we spend close to a thousand hours devoted to it each year,” said Franklin Pemberton, community affairs officer for the Carson Ranger District. “It’s a huge draw on our resources. There are days when rangers never see a trail.”
It’s not just lazy residents or weekend mechanics doing it: Business people have dumped refuse in the forest, and methamphetamine has been cooked out there too, Pemberton said.
Illegal dumping makes Forest Service employees less able to do things the public expects, such as maintaining trails and providing interpretive programs, when so much time is spent on cleanups and investigations, Pemberton said.
Volunteers are also getting tired of picking up junk – especially when they signed on to do other types of improvement work.
“Our biggest need is trash pickup and removal,” Pemberton said.
People who do this “must know what they’re doing is wrong because they try to hide it,” he said. “National public lands are something we cherish.”
For those who catch someone in the act, the city’s code office has some advice.
“Don’t approach anyone dumping anything,” McCoy emphasized. “Get their license number, make note of the time and location, and provide us with the information.
“We’ll go out and take a look at it, and pursue an investigation,” he said.
Even though the city has little time to devote to the problem, McCoy sometimes sits in these areas to try and catch dumpers in the act.
Also important: Don’t open up bags or touch anything with your bare hands, he said. Government officials have appropriate equipment for removing items that could prove hazardous or toxic, such as used medical waste or household chemicals.
“You could get sick,” McCoy added.