9 Investigates: Illegal trash dumping costs taxpayers thousands

By: Blaine Tolison

Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Channel 9 investigated a major problem in Charlotte neighborhoods: illegal trash dumping.

Eyewitness News anchor Blaine Tolison toured a few of the most notorious illegal dumping sites in Mecklenburg County, and some of the dumping was even caught on hidden camera.

Tolison also found out what it's costing taxpayers to clean up someone else's mess.

Pictures from a hidden camera in north Charlotte showed two men with a box truck dumping garbage in the middle of a neighborhood. They unloaded their unwanted box spring, mattress, washer and dryer within minutes.

Digital Camera

"It's quite astonishing. It's shocking, almost," said Aaron Caudle, with Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Services.

His department placed the hidden camera off June Furr Road -- a notorious dumping ground that the department cleans up frequently.

"There's no end to what people will dump," Caudle told Channel 9.

That particular site is less than 4 miles from a county recycling facility on Valleydale Road, where many things can be thrown away for free or for a low price.

[LINK: Recycling center locations in Mecklenburg County]

Jeffrey Smithberger, the director of Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Services, said there are sites like June Furr Road throughout the county, where the department regularly tries to catch people breaking the law.

"We spend a lot of time and resources in trying to stop it," Smithberger said.

Solid Waste Services couldn't positively identify the two men in the hidden camera footage, which meant no one was punished for dumping all of the junk on June Furr Road.

The problem is so bad in some parts of Charlotte that the county has stepped in and taken some extreme measures, such as putting up barricades to keep any vehicles from backing up and dumping trash. Signs have been posted to warn any potential violators.

The cost for all those measures, along with the cost to clean up someone else's trash, falls on taxpayers.

"That's just not right,” said David McDonald, who lives in the neighborhood along June Furr Road. "It's not right."

[LINK: How to report illegal dumping if you see it]

A small cleanup costs taxpayers about $500, but larger jobs, such as the one on June Furr Road, can cost up to $5,000.

County officials said there were a dozen cleanups over the past year, costing tens of thousands of dollars.

"It does cost us money, manpower and disposal of materials when we have to go out and do it," said Smithberger.

A tip led Channel 9 to a massive dumping ground off Old Dowd Road in west Charlotte. More mattresses and box springs, piles of household trash and even a boat could be seen from Chopper 9 Skyzoom.

That particular property is private land and a representative of the company that owns the property told Channel 9 they put up a gate and cleaned the area a year ago, but people still break in and dump illegally.

The land is a watershed to the Catawba River, where Channel 9 found a refrigerator last spring.

[PAST COVERAGE: 9 investigates tons of trash piling up on the Catawba River]

[SKYDRONE 9 PHOTOS: Trash on the Catawba River]

Mark Boone, with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services, said the trash can end up in those waterways.

"Heavy rains can pick up pretty much anything, so those things can end up in the waterway," he said.

Each year, Mecklenburg County cleans up 8 to 12 tons of garbage that was dumped illegally. If the county doesn’t clean it up, that trash can end up in local waterways.

The punishment for illegal dumping can range from a misdemeanor to felony charges, with fines and even jail time.

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