EXCLUSIVE: Illegal dumping problem getting worse in Central Texas

EXCLUSIVE: Illegal dumping problem getting worse in Central Texas
Posted at 6:39 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2018-06-19 15:00:56-04

You've probably seen trash, tires and animals on the side of the road before and didn't think anything of it. Not only is it an eye-sore, it's also an environmental hazard and a taxpayer drain.

News Channel 25 talked exclusively with one Central Texas couple who said illegal dumping has gotten so bad by their house, they've taken matters into their own hands.

Lesa and Johnny Holub said they drive down Chapel Hill Road between Waco and McLennan County on a daily basis.

"I drive this way every morning to go to work and I usually come home this way every evening," Lesa Holub said.

Pretty much on a daily basis, they said they see something new dumped on the side of the road.

"He was hanging on the fence upside down. He was probably so big that maybe somebody just didn't get him over the fence or whatever," Johnny Holub said.

Johnny is talking about a dog someone dumped on Jan. 3.

"It's a shame you know. Looked like a pretty nice dog," Johnny said.

It's a shocking scene that the Holubs said doesn't shock them anymore.

"We're not. It's been going on for years," Lesa said.

They said now they're just plain fed up with the dumping.

"I've got quite a few pictures for two to three years," Lesa said.

She sent News Channel 25 image after image of the things and the animals that people just dumped and left. The pictures include old couches, faulty tires, gutted fish, starved dogs, a headless goat, abandoned puppies and even a live hog.

"I haven't found any bodies yet but who knows," Johnny said.

The Holubs said they've called several agencies to stop not just curb the problem.

"The jail does run inmates through here and they do a good job of cleaning it up but it's just the idea of people constantly dumping things," Lesa said.

The McLennan County Sheriff's Office does not take illegal dumping lightly according to Bubba Colyer, the captain of the criminal investigations unit.

He said McLennan County and the City of Waco are working together on the Chapel Hill Road case.

"I sent two of my deputies and one of my detectives out there to investigate the scene," Colyer said.

He has litter abatement certified detectives and deputies who work for both the county and the city who can go in to investigate after neighbors report the crime.

"They can then report the dumping and then a deputy can come out and take a report," Colyer said.

While investigators mostly rely on tips from neighbors like the Holubs, Colyer said they also proactively look for illegal dumping during normal patrols.

"People come by here early in the morning or whenever and they can't catch every body," Johnny said.

"Unfortunately, this occurs in your more rural areas," Colyer said.

It's also happening within the City of Waco.

That's why Chuck Dowdell, Waco's interim public works director, is asking city council for two more officers to deal with illegal dumping. Dowdell said the one the city already has is already handling three cases a day.

"That's just too much we feel," Dowdell said.

People dumped 837,300 pounds of garbage, including 8671 tires, in Waco and McLennan County combined in 2013 according to a Heart of Texas Council of Governments report.

"Litter on our right-of-ways and our roadways costs us about $9.10 cents a pound to go collect," Dowdell said. "If it's in our alleys and other isolated areas, it costs us about $44.46 a pound," Dowdell said.

He added that investigators are able to get about half of the offenders to clean up their own garbage at their own cost. If they don't, it could cost them even more.

The Texas Health and Safety Code said depending on what's dumped and how much it weighs, offenders could face anything from a misdemeanor to a felony and fines from $500 to $10,000. That's even if you did not actually do the dumping.

For example, there are a pile of tires on Chapel Hill Road right behind a fence that surrounds private property. Colyer said even though the landowners probably did not put the tires there, they are still the ones who have to get rid of them.

"If he doesn't comply, there's a so-many-day grace period that anything beyond that particular grace period, he can be fined daily, indefinitely basically," Colyer said.

The Holubs said they hope fines and charges will deter people from dumping on their road.

"It would actually be the fastest way to end that, but you know I think some people don't care," Johnny said.

Because the Holubs care so much, they said they've taken matters into their own hands and are thinking of doing more to catch the criminals on a daily basis.

"If I do catch you I will make you pick it up," Johnny said.

"If it comes to the point where we have to put our own cameras up, we will," Lesa said.

Instead of approaching someone who is dumping illegally, Colyer urges you to get a description of the suspect and the car, and call McLennan County dispatch at (254) 757-2222, or Waco Solid Waste Services at (254) 299-2611.

Meanwhile, there are places you can dump for a fee or even free. Call your city or county for more information on that.

News Channel 25 contacted other counties and cities in Central Texas to see their numbers on illegal dumping, but we have not heard back yet.

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