Pictured: Mattresses illegally dumped in Ventura County. Photo courtesy of Anitha Balan/Ventura County Roads and Transportation
by David Goldstein
To catch people unlawfully dumping garbage along roadways during the past year, the Ventura County Public Works Agency installed motion-activated, hidden cameras in strategic locations along rural roads. The cameras upload images to the Internet and send incriminating evidence of people dumping, showing their vehicle and license plates to county staff. In response, the Public Works Agency files a police report which is then investigated by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. In most cases a citation is issued, and the responsible party is required to appear in court.
Steve Mattern, an environmental specialist with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, has assisted prosecutors in handling complaints against six illegal dumpers since the cameras were installed. The complaints charged the defendants for violating an anti-dumping ordinance. Although just a misdemeanor in most cases, consequences are serious. The court holds defendants responsible for restitution to the county of Ventura. To investigate, sheriff’s deputies come to the homes of those charged, and in addition to paying the financial costs of cleanup, the defendants are subject to court costs, fines and community service to the Public Works Agency.
Despite this enforcement, illegal dumping continues. In 2020, public works crews and contractors collected 278 mattresses illegally dumped along county roads, according to Anitha Balan, deputy director of operations and maintenance with Ventura County Roads and Transportation. In this case, dumping may be partly due to lack of information. Perhaps those who dumped would have brought their mattresses to a mattress recycling drop-off site if they had known mattresses may be dropped off free at four locations in Ventura County. Go to ByeByeMattress.com to find the location nearest to you.
Sometimes illegal dumping is done by individuals trying to make a quick buck by using their truck to haul for others. You can prevent illegal dumping by hiring only legal haulers. The company collecting your residential refuse is the one you should call for bulky item disposal as well. For tires, choose a registered waste tire hauler at the CalRecycle website, www.calrecycle.ca.gov/tires/haulers/.
Calling your regular refuse hauler is also a good first resort because mattresses, sofas and other bulky items too big to fit into regular curbside carts will often be collected free. Waste haulers’ contracts with cities or the county generally require them to accept two to four bulky items per year from each home free of charge. In some cities, residents are allowed two separate collection days, while in most areas outside cities, contracts specify up to two items on a single visit once per year.
Community cleanup days are another way to conveniently discard bulky items without cost. Although the program was suspended during the pandemic, most city and county contracts with haulers require haulers to provide annual events where residents can drop off material for free. In the city of Oxnard, neighborhood groups request this service and arrange for bins on their street. In other areas, city or county staff rent a church, park or school parking lot for several hours on a Saturday and send fliers to the surrounding neighborhood, notifying residents of the opportunity.
This program will resume soon, and in the meantime, waste service customers in some areas have been mailed passes for use of the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center or a transfer station sending material to the landfill. The three east county cities have long had such an arrangement with the Simi Landfill, which accepts material free of charge from their residents on specified days.
Rather than dispose at all, if you have an item to discard, consider whether someone else might want it. Listing items free on craigslist, Pennysaver or Freecycle often leads to free collection of discards.
If you see illegal dumping, avoid confrontation to avoid violence, but make a note of the license plate number and the dumper’s appearance and vehicle type, then contact the non-emergency number of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department at 805-654-9511.
Ventura County Public Works Agency Environmental Analyst David Goldstein may be reached at 805-658-4312.