At a news conference recently held at the El Paso Zoo, several local agencies, law enforcement and community members teamed up to redouble their efforts to battle illegal dumping in El Paso County.
Assistant County Attorney Cristina Viesca-Santos said her office takes environmental crimes seriously.
In 2018, they prosecuted six cases and they are on pace to double that this year with five prosecuted so far. But the County Attorney’s Office, El Paso Police, El Paso Water, El Paso Environmental Services and El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 know there are far more occurrences than prosecution numbers may indicate.
“If you see illegal dumping, pull out your phone and record the incident,” Viesca-Santos said. “Get video and take photos of the vehicle’s license plate number, of the person disposing the waste and the type of waste being dumped. And please report it.”
This type of information is needed to prosecute an illegal dumping case, especially since it’s difficult for law enforcement to catch people in the act.
Law enforcement and County Attorneys need the identity of the offender, which is the reason the video and photos play an integral part.
“Every time we have a storm in El Paso, we have a blocked storm drain from something that was dumped illegally,” said EPWater Vice President Alan Shubert. “We’ve found car bumpers, stoves, furniture, beds, and even entire automobiles. Flooding puts the community at risk.”
The agencies are collaborating on an illegal dumping outreach campaign that encourages citizens to be watchful, take a stand and report illegal dumping. Campaign messages are being shared on billboards, bus benches and shelters, radio, the internet and social media.
Kurt Fenstermacher, Director of El Paso Environmental Services, says the public can call 3-1-1 to request cleanups of illegally-dumped waste.
“Our crews spend countless hours removing thousands of pounds of trash,” he said. “Tell your friends and family members this is NOT how we treat our community. Spread the word to call 3-1-1.”
3-1-1 operators can provide the addresses and hours of operation for the five Citizen Collection Centers where the community can properly dispose of household waste.
For more information, please visit DontTrashep.org.