Remote Arizona county tackles desert dumping

Mar 27, 2015, 2:05 PM | Updated: 5:14 pm

EHRENBERG, Ariz. — In the back of Harry Vaa’s blue pickup truck is a refrigerator that he’d like to get rid of. And by taking advantage of an annual countywide cleanup event he can do so without having to drive to a landfill and pay to dump it.

The eight dumpsters outside a fire station here, along with others stationed around remote La Paz County, do more than allow Vaa and others to drop off sofas, dressers, mirrors, carpet pad and other large items. They helped address the scourge of dumping in the desert.

“I was down here back in the ’70s, and in my opinion it’s way cleaner than it’s ever been,” Vaa said.

Arizona’s open desert is a magnet for those looking to dump large items and other unwanted junk they don’t want to transport to landfills — and perhaps more importantly, pay to dispose of at landfills. And La Paz County has plenty of open desert, in addition to being a magnet for the winter RV set and those who ride off-highway vehicles.

The countywide cleanup event, which began in late February and lasts until mid-April at several sites, accepts most trash except for tires, liquid waste and hazardous waste.

Ken Olkowski, a county building official and volunteer at the Ehrenberg cleanup site on a recent weekday, said he doesn’t have a clue why people will dump pretty much anything in the desert, from Christmas trees to refrigerators.

“Not to pay that $10 or $20 bucks so they don’t have to go to a transfer site … people are just cheap that way, I guess,” he said.

Holly Irwin, a member of the La Paz County Board of Supervisors, said the cleanup days used to cost taxpayers more than $40,000 per year. But this year, Republic Services, the landfill operator, picked up most of that cost under a new contract with the county.

“We really want to try to keep our deserts environmentally friendly and not to have people think they have to do that (desert dumping) because they cannot either afford to go to transfer stations or … if they can’t go elsewhere to dump some of the larger items,” she said.

That’s important, Irwin said, because the county’s main draw is winter recreation. Trashed landscapes can be glaring to those riding quads or hiking trails.

“They’ll be traveling these trails out in the desert, and they’ll see these things,” she said. “The desert seems to be their playground.”

Mark Shaffer, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said that in addition to being an eyesore desert dumping fouls water and promotes disease by attracting rodents.

“It becomes a problem for the 15 counties and the various municipalities,” he said. “But where this problem is greatest of all is where you have unincorporated communities like on the outskirts of Maricopa County, and they’re severely lacking in the ability, except for community cleanups, to do anything about it.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook photo / Phoenix Fire Department)...

Newly named Pat Tillman Middle School held ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday

The former Balsz Elementary School is now officially Pat Tillman Middle School as a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Friday.
1 day ago
(Phoenix Fire Department Screenshot)...

Firefighters extinguish rooftop fire on large commercial building in Phoenix

Firefighters extinguished a fire on the roof of a large commercial structure located near 43rd Avenue and Buckeye Road in Phoenix Saturday.
1 day ago
(Mesa PD Mugshot)...

Mesa suspect booked for repeatedly running over, killing man, police say

A 61-year-old man was arrested Friday for intentionally running over a resident multiple times in east Mesa, authorities said.
1 day ago
Virginia Walker, 64, was last seen in Phoenix on Friday. (Phoenix Police Department Photo)...

Silver Alert issued for 64-year-old woman last seen in Phoenix

A Silver Alert was issued for a 64-year-old woman last seen in Phoenix on Friday.
1 day ago
The search for 6-year-old Gerardo Romero Barrera ended Saturday morning after authorities located h...

Phoenix police say missing 6-year-old located in Las Vegas with his uncle

The search for a missing 6-year-old from Phoenix ended after police located the child in Las Vegas with his uncle early Saturday, authorities said.
1 day ago
In an aerial view, immigrants wait in line to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing...

Yuma mayor: Gov. Ducey’s executive order to fill wall gaps ‘definitely helps’

Yuma mayor Doug Nicholls said they will use 40-foot shipping containers stacked on top of one another to fill out the gaps in the wall.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Remote Arizona county tackles desert dumping