North Central Texas Study to Profile Region's Illegal Dumpers

Authorities in North Central Texas want to know who is dumping illegally in their region. To find out, the Environmental Resources Department of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), Arlington, Texas, has commissioned the Austin-based firm of Reed, Stowe & Yanke to develop a profile of illegal dumpers in the 16-county area surrounding Dallas-Fort Worth.

Funded through an $80,000 grant from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, Austin, the study is part of a three-year management plan for the region. The plan includes efforts to minimize household, apartment and commercial trash; expand recycling; ensure sufficient treatment and disposal capacity; and coordinate state, regional and local solid waste management efforts.

The consulting firm expects the illegal dumping study to last five months, during which time the firm will survey the region's illegal dumps to identify the causes of the dumping, the typical locations and the types of materials disposed.

“NCTCOG has funded a lot of environmental officers in the region, but recently [Council members] started realizing they needed a coordinated program for the entire region,” says David Yanke of Reed, Stowe & Yanke.

Instead of focusing on specific dumpers, the firm will look for broader trends leading to illegal dumping, Yanke says. For instance, the region's construction industry may be a dumping culprit because North Central Texas is growing so rapidly. It's not uncommon to find construction waste illegally dumped where convenient access to landfills is not provided, he says.

“Because of Subtitle D [landfill regulations], many landfills have closed, and now people have to drive 30 miles or so to go to a landfill,” Yanke adds. As a result, people find the easiest place to dump their trash, which is not always at a landfill.

Additionally, the region's vast population disparities can make illegal dumping easier, says Kathleen Graham, senior environmental planner and solid waste program coordinator for the NCTCOG's Environmental Resources Department.

“It's easy to take garbage somewhere where no one's looking and put it on a poor farmer's land,” she says. “The results of the profiling hopefully will help to determine alternatives on how to deal with these groups on a comprehensive basis.”

After agreeing to conduct the study, the consulting firm held a brainstorming session in late Jan. 2001 with local enforcement officials and Environmental Resources Department representatives to learn the region's landscape.

Next, the firm plans to interview local enforcement officials and residents living near the dumps to find out what types of people dump at the sites.

After consolidating these findings, the firm will develop profiles of the main categories of dumpers. Finally, the firm will work with the NCTCOG to determine how to increase public awareness and unify the region's anti-dumping efforts.

An illegal dumping hotline, which allows residents to report dumping situations, already is in place. The hotline has led to the discovery of many dumpsite locations and has allowed the council to develop its “Top Ten Most Least Wanted” list. Used as a public outreach tool to deter dumping, the list names major dumpsite locations.

After completing the study, Reed, Stowe and Yanke will work with the NCTCOG to develop educational messages targeting — and attempting to reform — illegal dumpers. The firm also will seek stricter legislation, stricter enforcement and more education on the illegal dumping issue. Study results are due in mid-summer 2001.