A discarded bag of trash lies on the side of a road in the High Desert, highlighting the persistent issue of illegal dumping that affects the high desert community (Photo by Victoria Egerer)

The Illegal dumping of trash has become a significant problem in the High Desert communities. This act not only defaces the beauty of the desert, but creates environmental and health risks within these communities. Despite efforts to address the issue, illegal dumping continues to affect the quality of life for High Desert residents and demands urgent action.

Illegal dumping consists of disposing of waste in non-designated areas. This waste includes anything from household trash and furniture to hazardous materials. In the High Desert, remote fields, vacant lots, and the sides of roads have become frequent grounds for dumping garbage, creating unsafe conditions and unsightly views.

According to data share by local government, reports of illegal dumping have increased in recent years. Financially, the act of cleaning up these sites falls on local authorities. However, this calls for the re-allocation of funds from other necessary community services, like improving public infrastructure within the High Desert. When cities, like Victorville for example are spending thousands on cleaning up, this impacts the communities in other ways.

Environmentally, the impact of illegal dumping is considerable. Waste that is dumped illegally and incorrectly can contaminate soil and groundwater. This contamination can affect vegetation and local wildlife, disrupting natural desert habitats. In addition, hazardous materials like batteries, chemicals, and tires can pose direct health risks to humans all to save a few dollars.

Sites that are used for illegal dumping become breeding grounds for pests like insects or rodents which can spread diseases. These sites often attract more dumping, creating additional more harmful accumulations of trash. The visual eyesore of trash-strewn landscapes, also reduce property values and drive away possible investors and visitors away.

In response to this growing problem, Senator Scott Wilk introduced Senate Bill 1359 to combat illegal dumping in the High Desert. The bill, recently approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee, aims to increase penalties and close a loophole which allows property owners and waste haulers to work together to avoid fees. This has enabled illegal dumping for years. According to Senator Wilk, the High Desert has long been treated as a dump site, and SB 1359 seeks to bring much-needed relief to residents and hold those who violate, accountable.

SB 1359 would require a permit for any private property dumping, with or without the owner’s permission. It would also increase mandatory fines for each violation and make illegal dumping a misdemeanor rather than an infraction. This legislative measure sends a clear message to those who continue to illegally dump trash: it ends now.

According to Victorville Daily Press, since its founding in 2017 by Scott Brown, the Pinon Hills-based nonprofit High Desert Keepers has picked up over 1.3 million pounds of trash in the High Desert. A team of over 535 volunteers has participated in nearly 40 organized clean-ups across the region.

The City of Victorville’s Code Enforcement and Sanitation teams work hard to keep neighborhoods and the desert clean. Residents are encouraged to report illegal dumping to the Police Department at (760) 956-5001 or though the confidential We-Tip line at 800-78-CRIME. The city also offers resources such as free bulky item pickups and drop-offs, a daily no-cost disposal center, and a household hazardous waste collection center to help residents dispose of waste properly.

Residents play an important role in fighting against illegal dumping. By properly disposing of waste and reporting illegal dumping activities, residents can assist in the reduction this issue. Most cities in the High Desert offer bulky item pick-up services and operate local recycling centers where residents can dispose of large or hazardous items safely and legally.

Involvement of the community in clean-up efforts is another effective way to address the problem. Organizing or participating in local clean-up events can help remove or reduce trash and raise awareness about the importance of keeping the environment clean.

Illegal dumping in the High Desert communities of Hesperia, Adelanto, Apple Valley, and Victorville is an ongoing issue that demands concerted efforts from both local authorities and its residents. While progress has been made, there is more that can be done to ensure a cleaner and safer environment for all. By working together, we can tackle the problem of illegal dumping and preserve the natural beauty and health of our communities. Calls made to Public Works for comment on the issue have not been returned.

Residents are encouraged to report illegal dumping activities to their local authorities and utilize designated waste disposal services. Together, we can make a significant difference in maintaining the cleanliness and health of our High Desert communities.

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