Yorktown landowners tired of illegal dumping (Video)
By BY SONNY LONG - SLONG@VICAD.COM
Feb. 25, 2013 at 8:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 24, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.
Smith Creek Dump Site
Landowners are concerned about trash being dumped near Smith Creek in DeWitt County.
"A person commits an offense if the person disposes or allows or permits the disposal of litter or other solid waste at a place that is not an approved solid waste site, including a place on or within 300 feet of a public highway, on a right-of-way, on other public or private property, or into inland or coastal water of the state."
Source: Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 365
YORKTOWN - Jay Kelsey dug through the bag of garbage, hoping to find out who dumped it under the Smith Creek Bridge.
A search of the bag's contents didn't reveal an identity, but Kelsey knows more than one person is responsible for what has become a dump site near the creek.
"I've never seen it this bad," said Kelsey, who owns a ranch downstream from the dumping ground.
"It's become a dump site for household garbage, construction waste, oil-field trash, tires of all sizes and dead animals.
"In the creek downstream, there are old appliances and tires. I think this creek flows into Coleto Creek, which goes to the reservoir where drinking water is taken from."
Smith Creek actually flows into Fifteen Mile Coleto Creek that forms portions of the DeWitt-Goliad and Goliad-Victoria county lines.
That creek then flows into the Guadalupe River, according to the Texas State Historical Commission's Handbook of Texas Online.
Another landowner, Bill Kirmse, said the state of Texas is responsible for maintaining the property.
"It's state land under the bridge," he said. "I've contacted them several times. No one wants to take responsibility for cleaning it up. It's like they've given up on it.
"They came in and cleaned it up about a year ago," Kirmse continued. "Now, they claim they are too busy keeping up with the roads because of the oil-field traffic."
Mark Cross, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman, said the bridge on Farm-to-Market Road 2980 at Smith Creek has often been used for illegal dumping of trash and debris.
"Unfortunately, the area underneath the Smith Creek bridge is easily accessible from the roadway when the ground is dry, which makes it an easy target for illegal trash dumping," Cross said.
He said that over the years, TxDOT maintenance crews have repeatedly removed garbage from the location and properly disposed of it.
TxDOT has also worked with law enforcement to try to end dumping and identify those responsible, Cross said, and these efforts are ongoing.
"We regret this situation persists, and we will continue to monitor the area and do what we can to control the littering in the area," he said.
But the organization's manpower resources are very limited, so Cross encourages all individuals to refrain from dumping trash illegally and become more sensitive to the environment by helping to keep areas near roadways and bridges clean.
Kelsey said that in 2011, the state offered to lease him the property under the bridge so he could maintain it, but he doesn't want the liability that goes with that.
"We talked about putting up a fence," he said. "It's going to have to be fenced. They'll still probably dump on the other side of the fence, but at least it won't go into the creek."
Chief Deputy John Oglesby said the DeWitt County Sheriff's Office received a call in January 2012 about illegal dumping on the farm road.
Illegal dumping is addressed in the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 365.
The offense is a misdemeanor of varying degrees depending on the weight and volume of the litter, according to the code.
Fines range from $500 to $4,000 with jail terms up to one year.
Kirmse, who also has cattle on his nearby ranch, looked out over Smith Creek, pointing at an old appliance downstream.
"It's a shame," he said. "It's a pristine little creek."
Here's a past story on illegal dumping.
And a past editorial on the topic.