At the July meeting of the Tulare County Ag Advisory Committee, two key recurring themes were discussed at length, that are long term chronic issues in our county – rural dumping of trash and rural dumping of animal carcasses.
Rural dumping of trash including discarded appliances, mattresses, tires, and household waste is a significant problem in the County, and even over county lines we believe trash being illegally dumped is becoming a more chronic health and human safety concern as landowners repeatedly report trash dumped on their property and the shoulder of public roads.
Animal carcass disposal is another vexing problem that shows up on rural roads, private property, and inconvenient locations that creates a burden on county services personnel, road crews, and agencies like County Animal Services, the County Ag Commissioner, and even organizations like Farm Bureau who field numerous calls throughout the year about roadside dumping and dead animals.
Farm Bureau has been vocal about both rural trash dumping and animal disposal issues that plague landowners throughout the County for a long time. Recently TCFB executive director Blattler, elevated both issues to the Ag Advisory Committee to discuss at their July meeting. Since Tulare County Agricultural Advisory Committee is a committee that reports to the Board of Supervisors to provide advice, guidance, and raise concerns related to agricultural issues, it seemed the proper place to start some of these conversations with so many impacts to farmers and ranchers across the county.
At the July meeting of County Ag Advisory Committee, the rural trash dumping topic was started out with a presentation by the Tulare County Sheriff Department’s Farm Manager, Gary Bird. Bird gave a presentation about the magnitude of the work they do to assist landowners with removal of unsightly trash dumps on public roads and shoulders of county roads.
Bird reported that in 2019-2020 over 900,000 pounds of trash was removed from roadside locations, with the bulk of that being discarded tires, over 11,000 appliances, furniture, mattresses, and everyday waste. The county currently has three litter removal crews that are dispatched through the Sheriff’s Farm inmate program to pick up trash from the entire County. Their intent is to add a fourth litter crew in the 2021-2022 year.
Bird stated that the Sheriff’s Department hopes to set up a fourth litter removal team to be based in South County to help reduce the number of miles driven overall and make response times shorter. Over 5,000 miles of driving was logged in response to calls for trash cleanup, monthly on record and Farm Bureau can attest that hundreds of callers contact us each year for assistance, many on multiple occasions.
It was also stated that back in the day these crews would have 6-8 inmates involved with each litter crew, but as state laws have changed, (early release of prisoners and classification of inmates eligible for this kind of work) the litter crews now are usually only 2-3 individuals in total. That may be a supervisor, with only 1-2 inmates available for each litter crew. This alone significantly impacts their response times, and availability to pick up trash, not to mention the chronic repeat dumping that sometimes happens in the days following a pick-up.
Often landowners call us on more than a single occasion to report trash, and believe it is the same dump as before, when it may already be that the TCSO Litter Removal Crew has been out and removed one dump, and another new dumping has occurred just overnight.
It was suggested that landowners also file a report to the sheriff’s dispatch line and make a report with a patrol deputy every time there is a significant dumping at their property, or on the shoulder of a roadway. Without making a report, the Sheriff’s office has less knowledge of the situation, and repeat offense.
Farm Bureau will continue to advocate with county officials on this issue and ask the County to address the problem with more resources, services, and funds as possible. Illegal dumping is a growing problem, and with fewer landfills open and the mounting costs to legally dispose of trash, many people will not think twice about using a farmer’s property to dump on instead. It is a sad problem, with no easy solutions.