COLUMN: Illegal dumping on the rise

Submitted photo.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown.

There was a lot of damage to many homes and buildings as a result of the Dec. 26 tornado and the cleanup efforts are ongoing here in our county. Typically, with storm damage, it’s the insurance company’s duty to pay for your haul-off and ensure it gets to a proper disposal site.

Unfortunately, we’ve been experiencing an increase in illegal dumping cases. If you’ve got debris and trash that you’re wanting to remove from your property, it’s your responsibility it gets disposed of correctly. Taking it out on our back roads and leaving it there costs the county – and, when it’s all said and done, it costs you. Believe us, there’s a better use of your tax dollars than cleaning up messes that shouldn’t have been created to begin with.

Much of the time the cleanup of an illegal dumping site falls on our county precinct barn personnel. Wouldn’t you rather they spend their time working on your roads, repairing bridges and trimming the sight lines at intersections? Yes, we’re able to use inmates to help clean up and remove items that have been illegally dumped out in the county; however, the first priority with our personnel is manning the jail and handling inmate movement to and from our courts. When we have the manpower available to oversee the inmates, we’ll put them to use out in the county, but it’s also worth noting that, as a rule, we can’t work them on any property that isn’t city, county or state owned. We coordinate with the DA’s office on the legalities relating to inmate work and if further approval is needed, we’ll approach the Commissioners Court.

We take illegal dumping seriously and those cases do get investigated. If you get caught or you’re identified as the owner of the debris, you’ll face a criminal charge that can reach up to the felony level due to the weight of the dumped items or their content. The damage caused by illegal dumping can be much more than cosmetic and looking bad in our ditches and along our roadways; it can also be life-threatening if the wrong materials get dumped out into our environment.

On occasion, the county hosts cleanups to help prevent illegal dumping. In fact, it just finished hosting a several-day collection site out at the county farm for people needing a place to take trash and debris created by the tornado. You can keep an eye out for any future county-hosted cleanups on the Ellis County Emergency Management Facebook page and the county’s website at www.co.ellis.tx.us. We want to help keep you as informed as possible so we’ll also try and highlight news items like that on our own Facebook page, Ellis County Sheriff’s Office.

As always, the Sheriff’s Office asks that you help keep our military and service personnel in our thoughts and prayers. We enjoy all of our rights and freedoms because of their service and safekeeping of our great nation. Y’all have a Blessed Week from your Sheriff’s Office.

Johnny Brown has served as Sheriff of Ellis County since Jan. 1, 2009, and is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute. He has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and holds a Master’s Peace Officer’s Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.