CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – According to George Johnson, Environmental Services Officer with the Craighead County Sheriff's Office, the number of reported illegal dumpsites has dropped substantially over the past few years.
Johnson said his call volume is half of what it was in 2008. As of this report, he said he is working four separate illegal dumpsite investigations this year, but the problem is still relevant.
"We're about a mile north of the city limits of Jonesboro on North Culberhouse Extended and this is an illegal dumpsite that we've cleaned up two or three different times," said Johnson. "We've had a meth lab here before that they have thrown away. We've found tires, household garbage."
Johnson said the dumpsite has been cleaned several times by the land owner; however, he doesn't believe the landowner is doing the dumping.
"I think everybody goes through a period of spring cleaning and they throw things away that they don't want anymore, and just the accumulation of stuff during the winter time," said Johnson.
Johnson said the penalty is steep for trashing Region 8. The state could write a ticket or issue a fine for $25,000.
"They disrespect our environment and the property owner that owns the property, because if we don't find the name ultimately, the property owner is responsible for cleaning it up," said Johnson. "Our goal is not to take people to court and give them tickets, it's for compliance."
In 2010, the Civil Air Patrol performed a flyover of the entire county. Officials identified 18 suspected illegal dumpsites, 16 of which were in Craighead County.
"One of the reasons that we do the fly over in March is because the foliage of the trees. All the foliage is off the trees in early march and we fly over so we can get a better look at the actual ground," said Johnson.
Johnson said his job normally slows down in the fall and winter months, but ramps up when it's warmer outside.
"In the spring, as soon as the weather breaks in the spring through the summer months, it seems like it's too cold for folks to get out and do this in the winter," said Johnson. "These tires start to fill up with water and it's a great breeding ground for mosquitoes in the city of Jonesboro, also as they decompose, it does run off into big creek here."
Johnson said he frequently finds old tires, television sets, computers and furniture littering most all illegal dumpsites.
"The household garbage, most of the time, people will leave their name. In fact, at this site today, we found a name of an individual that dumped some household garbage here and I will be paying him a visit," said Johnson. "If they burn old furniture, of course it has foam in it and other things, it pollutes our air."
"If you live in the city of Jonesboro, you can take up to four tires a year for free to the landfill. You can also take any household garbage that you have or furniture to the landfill," said Johnson.