Following continual problems with illegal dumping around the city, Denton Parks and Recreation officials say they are considering installing surveillance cameras.
“We are going to post signs with the correct ordinances on them, and we have already started looking at different surveillance cameras,” said Drew Huffman, with the Parks and Recreation Department.
On Friday morning, crews removed trash from a site near the Union Pacific Railroad track on Johnson Street near Mill Street.
“We got it picked up,” Huffman said. “We do see illegal dumping throughout town.
“I think a lot of the illegal dumping has to do with convenience,” he said. “Everyone knows where the recycling centers are and where the landfill is. It is also convenient to have bulk pickup at their home. But it’s easy to find somewhere to just drop it, and someone else gets to clean it up.”
The Johnson Street site is in Denton City Council member Gerard Hudspeth’s district. He had not returned a message seeking comment by Friday afternoon.
“The site near Johnson and Mill Street was recently identified by Community Improvement Services,” said Sarah Kuechler, chief of staff in the City Manager’s Office. “While the case was under staff inspection, two resident complaints were also submitted. The issue regarding dumping in the right of way was entered and referred to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for cleanup.”
On Oct. 1, responsibility for public areas and rights of way was given to Parks and Recreation “in an effort to streamline the city’s response to mowing and maintenance.”
“Prior to Oct. 1, there was no uniform tracking of illegal dumping since it was addressed by different departments depending on the activity impacted by the illegal dumping,” Kuechler said. “We do not have information compiled to share related to frequency, sites and costs. Staff from multiple departments are coordinating a strategy that will include tracking and reporting such activity.”
Illegal dumping is common in vacant lots, isolated rights of way and near railroad lines, she said. It happens “more frequently” at the Johnson Street site, primarily because it is not visible from Dallas Drive.
It “is addressed based on where it happens,” Kuechler said. “Community Improvement Services addresses illegal dumping that occurs on private property. Parks and Recreation addresses illegal dumping on all city-owned public property and contracted rights of way.”
City ordinance provides for a $500 fine “if someone was caught in the act of illegal dumping,” Kuechler said.
“Most of this illegal dumping is in the right of way,” Huffman said. “But we don’t have any kind of enforcement on that.”
City Attorney Aaron Leal had not returned a message seeking comment by Friday afternoon.
“Some folks take it lightly, but illegal dumping is a huge burden on the property owner,” council member Jesse Davis said. “It’s not just city property and right of way. Businesses that rent dumpsters often get junk piled up around them, and anyone who’s ever lived on a corner has found some kind of nonsense in their yard. Last year, we found a nasty old mattress in the front yard that we had taken care of.”
Davis, also a Denton County assistant district attorney, said he has prosecuted “some notorious illegal dumpsters in the past.”
“And there’s really no excuse,” he said. “Every citizen should know that our Solid Waste Department will accept almost every kind of residential waste at very reasonable rates. Even so, we’re a growing city with a higher-than-average number of rental units. So with some frequency, we get vacating tenants who dump their unwanted trash and large items and bad landlords taking the cheap route when they turn over or renovate units.”
According to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, illegal dump sites can lead to health, environmental and safety concerns because they often contain glass, hazardous waste, metals and other “dangerous materials.” And such sites also attract rodents, snakes and mosquitoes.
In Texas, illegally dumping 1,000 pounds or more of waste is a state jail felony. Violations in Denton may be reported via the Engage Denton app or by calling 940-349-8743.