Illegal Dumping Resources Toolbox
Abatement means compelling the timely cleanup by others of illegally dumped material. Generally, property owners where material is dumped are legally responsible for clean-up unless the party responsible can be identified. When local governments can identify individuals or property owners responsible for illegal dumping, they hold them responsible for the direct and indirect costs (full cost recovery) associated with the cleanup of the properties. Clean areas tend to stay clean—they look cared for and don’t invite trashing. Timely abatement is key to preventing illegal dumping and its recurrence—particularly for hot spots.
Solid Waste Codes and Ordinances
Many local governments have supplemented the California Penal Code (Section 374 et seq.) on illegal dumping with local ordinances to facilitate abatement. There are several local ordinances that can be adopted to facilitate timely cleanup of illegally dumped materials and reduce the ability to conveniently dispose of trash illegally as well as methods to fiscally support the program. Aspects of local codes and ordinances related to abatement are described below.
Evidence of Ownership Standard
Several jurisdictions have adopted ordinances defining the evidence of ownership for illegally dumped materials in order to identify the responsible party and to detail an administrative process for removing the materials. Names of individuals found on materials in the illegal dump are identified, and the individual is notified that they are the legally presumed owner of the material, and warned about prosecution unless they provide a receipt for the disposal of the material and payment of the administrative costs. The success rate not only cleans up the illegal dump, but it supports the cost of the program, eliminates the need and cost to have staff or contractors abate the dump, and hopefully discourages future illegal dumping by the violators.
Clean and Lien Authority
Property owners are sometimes unwilling to address the problem. The clean and lien authority (Contra Costa County Code, Title 1, Section 14-6.434) enables the enforcing agency to cleanup materials that are illegally dumped on private property, whether or not caused by the property owner, and then recover the costs by placing a tax lien on the property. Local jurisdictions using this administrative authority also need to identify a source of funds to pay for the removal until the costs can be recovered through the tax lien.
Required Fencing and Barriers
Barriers or fencing are installed to prohibit vehicle entry and/or make dumping more difficult. Local jurisdictions (Contra Costa County Code, Title 7, Chapter 720-4.406k) often adopt ordinances that allow the jurisdiction to require the property owner of repeat dumping to install fencing and/or barriers to prevent future dumping. The ordinances (Contra Costa County Code, Title 7, Chapter 720-4.802) also include authority for the illegal dumping program staff to install the fencing or barriers on private property and recover the costs through a tax lien.
Some jurisdictions or waste management authorities provide victims of illegal dumping with vouchers (PDF, 138 KB | Word, 650 KB) that waive disposal fees if the property owner is willing to remove and transport the illegally dumped materials.
Special programs exist for farmers and ranchers. Private property owners of agricultural-zoned land where illegal dumping has occurred can coordinate with an eligible applicant (such as a Resource Conservation Districts, city, county or tribe) for a State grant to pay the cost of cleaning up the property.
Minimizing recurrence is essential to the successful abatement of illegal dumping. For a detailed discussion of the different ways to minimize recurrence please see that section on our Prevention page.