Environmental Effort

An illegal dump site found in Collin County.

Environmental deputy: In less than 3 years, more than 900 illegal dumps removed from rural area

Going into the third year of operations, Deputy Sheriff Lee Howe and his counterparts in the Public Works department have made some impressive gains when it comes to cleaning up illegal dump sites along rural county roads, fields and creek beds: 29,000-plus pounds of refuse cleaned up, more than 800 investigations.

And then there are the citations and charges that follow, the bite that comes from dumping trash on roadways and in creek beds. Since 2010, Deputy Howe has issued more than 140 warning citations, 176 Justice of the Peace citations, many of which result in violators paying clean-up costs as part of their court case or cleaning up the mess themselves. Meanwhile, probationers from the Community Services and Corrections Department are recruited to pitch in on clean-up projects, saving thousands of dollars in labor and freeing up the Public Works staff to spend more time improving and repairing roads instead of picking up trash.

“We’re into our third year now, and I’d like to believe this effort is having a big impact on the problem,” Deputy Howe says, pausing to answer his phone to take a resident’s complaint. “In many ways, it has – with an occasional spike here and there.”

Deputy Sheriff Lee Howe has issued more than 140 warning citations, 176 Justice of the Peace citations, many of which result in violators paying clean-up costs as part of their court case or cleaning up the mess themselves.
Spring and summer brings garage clean-outs and home remodeling projects where refuse ends up on roadsides and in creek beds, while fall and winter months don’t appear to generate as many dumpsites, he says.

So far, the Environmental Enforcement program has saved taxpayers more than $450,000 in clean-up and labor costs. The biggest result, however, has been the decline of more than 900 illegal dump sites in rural Collin County. Previous years, these numbered upwards of 2,000 or more.

“The bottom line is, in a single year’s time, we’ve cut the number of illegal dumps in half,” says Jon Kleinheksel, Public Works director. “I think that Lee getting out and about, and the public education programs we’ve employed on recycling and solid waste disposal really have made a difference.

“Thanks to everyone’s efforts in this, we saved almost a half-million dollars since the program began,” he adds.
Slowly but surely, word appears to be getting around that a midnight trash run on a rural road could be costly. And, on occasion, Deputy Howe gets some help from residents – and even some violators themselves – to combat the litter.

  • In January, a resident spotted two people throwing trash out of their pickup truck, wrote down their license plate number and called police. Two Public Works employees spotted a passenger throw trash into a creek near State Highway 78 in February. A Farmersville police officer pulled over the truck minutes later.
  • A helicopter pilot flying over a remote area spotted a large dump on private land that wasn’t visible from the road, and called it in.

In many cases, the trash leads straight back to the owners.

  • A letter jacket with a student’s name and school was found at one dump site, the result of someone cleaning out their parent’s garage. Not only did the litterer have to go back and pick up the trash, he was also charged with illegal dumping.
  • In early February, three separate piles of household trash and debris were found at three different sites throughout the county, each with paperwork identifying the person at the same address. When day laborers who were allegedly responsible for the dumping couldn’t be found, three cases were filed against the homeowner where the trash originated.

Deputy Howe spends a lot of time driving the county’s back roads, a lot of time on the phone, and a lot of time sorting through trash to track down violators.

“There is no end to what people will throw away,” he says. “And it almost always leads me directly to them.”

To learn more about illegal dumping in Collin County, visit the Illegal Dumping webpage. To report illegal dumping, please call our 24-hour hotline at 972-547-5350.


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