Waste of work? How residents pay for illegal dumping along county roads

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- WREG takes a look at how your tax dollars pay for trash pick-up, as some residents use area roads as their personal dumping ground.

The News Channel 3 Investigators obtained hidden-camera pictures showing residents dumping their trash on the side of the road.

Those people had no idea they were being photographed.

The pictures show people dumping everything from chairs, books and paper to glass, even a dog house.

Danny Daniels is with the Shelby County Roads and Bridges Department.

"They dump their household garbage, their tires, they dump their fence boards," Daniels said. "If they don't have a garbage collection fee, they're going to dump it."

In other words, if they don't pay to have a company pick up their trash, taxpayers foot the bill for the county to handle it.

Daniels is a supervisor in the department that oversees the three man crews (which also includes inmates) walking local roads, picking up litter five days a week.

Daniels said that equates to roughly 3,000 miles a year.

"State of Tennessee is 440 miles long so we walk the state of Tennessee six times or more!"

The crews routinely hit hot spots like an area off Bolen Huse Road in North Shelby county.

Daniels said it's his department's job to keep grass cut, and areas looking good, but these days, they spend more time picking up trash instead.

"We want to keep them clean as best we can, but it's just hard keeping up with this many people."

According to statistics from Shelby County, in the month of March alone, crews picked up 33 tons of roadside debris.

To put that into perspective, Daniels told WREG, "Oh, I'd fill up the Liberty Bowl!"

The landfill cost for the same month was $1,064.

Illegal dumping offenders can be prosecuted and fined if they get caught. The county has hidden cameras in certain unincorporated areas.

Daniels said he thinks a taste of their own trouble, having to pick up trash as community service, might be an even better deterrent for illegal dumpers.

"I think if they walk the streets and instead of having DUI, [on the back of their shirt] I'm a dump offender!"

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said while they're committed to improving the county's appearance, "Every dollar used for litter could have been spent on other pressing citizen needs."

So, county leaders are encouraging citizens to call if and when they see people dumping.

"With your help and getting it out to the people that maybe, someone will say, I won't dump, no more, or whatever, but that's just a hope," Daniels added.

To report illegal dumping, call 222-2300.

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