Environmental Crimes Create More than a Mess 9/5/12
CBS 7 News
September 5, 2012
ODESSA, TX - The backcountry roads of West Texas have become the backcountry dump in Ector County.
Trash in the county is such a growing problem, county commissioners created the Environmental Enforcement division last year.
Today Ector County is one of only a few in the State of Texas using a special division to tackle environmental crimes. And this new program is about to celebrate one year in the county.
"Trash harbors crime,” said Ector Co. Environmental Enforcement Officer Ted Yelley. “It's an eye sore, people try to stay away from it, so a lot of times you're going to have the criminals that will go into some of those areas and that's where they'll stay."
At least a dozen vehicles sit rotting in front of an abandoned home in north Ector County, attracting such a bad reputation the neighbors flock to Officer Yelley for help.
"It's been dangerous because I've been getting people that have been on crack or something, coming over here trying to rip off batteries or tires or something so I have to be watching them, make sure they don't try to go to my house."
Tony Pineda has been living on the street for 12 years, and says he now has to protect his home from the abandoned property across the street.
“Just because we live out here doesn't mean we have to live like pigs you know what I'm saying."
Across the county Ian Tavarez says he worries about his family and the health hazard brewing down the street in an open field.
He's worried about what his children could find while playing in the field or worse what could find them.
"When it rains all those tires make like a little pond, and the mosquitoes breed."
Tavarez says he recently lost a horse to West Nile Virus.
"I took him in, but it was too late. He died from West Nile Virus."
Officer Yelley says tire dumping is a growing hazard in county fields and along the roadside.
"It makes our community look ugly. We want a nice clean community and we can't have it because people are too lazy or don't want to go pay money to throw their trash away somewhere else,” says Tavarez.
Illegal dumping has gotten so bad in fact dumped items are sprayed all over the paved roads of Ector County.
"Go along and a mattress is on the side of the road, and there's a chair right here. There's your frack sand that's sitting there, on the side of the road," explains Yelley as he points out rubbish on the side of the road.
"Like this right here, someone just decided to throw their carpet. This is in the right of way, so it's going to cost tax payer money to clean it up."
And now the county agency is taking action.
They've filed one civil law suit against a private citizen, Alberto Garcia for dumping an oil-water mixture on the roadway.
They’ve also filed four more suits against companies for illegal dumping, including a Jaguar's Gold Club, D & D Tire Shop, Holloman Construction, and most recently Basin Disposal, whose illegal dump pit south of Odessa has contaminated the soil with illegal levels of lead, arsenic, chromium and butanone.
Basin Disposal’s dumpsite is located right above three different aquifers.
"The more people dig holes and bury trash or bury oils or other chemicals, it's going to reach our ground water and make it to where you can't even drink it," says Yelley.
“It's going to change a lot of things. In the county you don't have a city ordinance, but you do have state law and that's what we enforce. "
"I think now that they start to enforce it, not just this block but other blocks will get the message, hey it's time to clean up the place you know. Odessa's growing; let's make it look nice," says Pineda.
Officer Yelley says and his team doesn't hand out tickets on a regular basis, he says their first goal is education, teaching the public what to do with trash or unwanted items.
To report an Environmental Crime or contract Officer Yelley you can call the Ector County Health Department at (432) 498-4141 ext. 1024.