Illegal dumping costs Dubuque County taxpayers more than $80K pe - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Illegal dumping costs Dubuque County taxpayers more than $80K per year

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

Nearly four years after Dubuque County started ramping up its efforts to crack down on illegal dumping, the problem is still costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars every year.

In 2010, area agencies came together to form the Dubuque Area Task Force on Illegal Dumping, Illegal Littering, acknowledging the fact that illegal dumping was a major problem in the area.

Shortly thereafter, the Dubuque County board of supervisors approved the creation of a part-time Illegal Dumping Enforcement Officer position through the Dubuque County Conservation Board. The position is roughly eight hours a week and is funded by the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency (DMASWA), through users fees.

Kurt Kramer currently occupies the position. On Tuesday afternoon, he clawed through a bag of trash at a large Dubuque County illegal dump site, hoping to find any identifying information.

"Looking for receipts, letters. Anything that might give me a name or an address," Kramer said.

Since taking over as Illegal Dumping Enforcement Officer in December, Kramer has investigated some 20 different dump sites. He said people who do this on public land are hurting more than just the environment.

"They're passing on the cost to the taxpayers here in Dubuque County, because we'll have to clean it up, and that cost will go to the taxpayer," he said.

In 2010, illegal dumping cost taxpayers more than $115,000, according to the DMASWA. By 2012, that had dropped down to around $84,000, but Kramer said the problem isn't going away.

"The garbage is going to leech into the soil, contaminating the soil and the groundwater, where it's not at a controlled site like at a landfill," Kramer said. "Aesthetically, obviously, it's not pleasing, and the taxpayer's going to get stuck with cleaning up the site because we'll have to come out here and pick up this garbage and dispose of it properly."

The cost and effort of removing items dumped illegally on somebody's private land falls to that property's owner. Prosecution of the individual who dumped them there could result in some restitution.

Getting caught dumping solid waste on public or private property could result in a civil penalty of up to $1,000. Despite that, some people continue to take the risk.

"It comes down to personal economics," Kramer said.

Down the street from the dump site Tuesday afternoon, at Heritage Pond, Rose Culbertson was spending the afternoon with her family. She lives nearby and said she's fed up with illegal dumping.

"They just come and dump all their beds, tires, garbage, paint cans-- you know, all this stuff, so they don't have to go the landfill," she said heatedly.

Illegal dump sites can also be very dangerous, as some sites contain discarded meth labs with hazardous chemicals.

According to the DMASWA, the task force and its efforts have resulted in more than 60 charges for illegal dumping and littering.

Members of the county-wide task force include representatives from the Dubuque County Conservation Board, the Dubuque County Sheriff's Office, the Dubuque Police Department, city and county attorneys' offices and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, among others.

People in Dubuque County can report illegal dumping HERE: http://www.dmaswa.org/dumping_complaint.cfm

For the cost and times of dropping waste off at the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency landfill, click HERE: http://www.dmaswa.org/pricing.cfm

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