Ector County Environmental Enforcement officer Rickey George said many residents are avoiding disposing of household items properly because of high costs and inconvenience.
County residents are turned away if they try to use the bulky item drop-off at the City of Odessa’s Recycling Center, which is a free service only available to those living within the city limits.
City Solid Waste Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez said the city is tackling its own battle with illegal dumping in alleyways and allowing county residents to also dispose of items at the center would stretch their program beyond operational capacity.
Those living in the county must take unwanted items to the Charter Waste Landfill on West Murphy Street at a cost that is priced per ton.
“County residents have to go to the landfill because we don’t want to get overwhelmed,” Rodriguez said. “I just wish the county would have their own bulk item drop-off.”
George said adding scheduled clean-up sites in the county is already a challenge due to a lack of resources. He said the limited trash services outside of city limits “invites the criminal act” of illegal dumping.
“The people that want to take a bulky item to the city are turned away, and the landfill charges them a high amount,” he said. “It doesn’t excuse criminal behavior, but that’s a variable we have to deal with.”
Charter Waste Landfill increased prices by about $30 starting in January for those bringing items to the landfill and now the cost to dispose of 1 ton of waste is $80, which is the minimum amount a county resident can be charged, regardless of if they bring just one mattress, for example.
Israel Lujan, landfill operations manager, said the rate was raised to cover equipment maintenance, but a reduced price is currently offered to city residents if they bring proof of residence, like a water bill, and a form of identification.
City residents pay closer to $50 for the disposal of 1 ton of waste.
Lujan said numerous complaints were made to the company about the price hike, especially from county residents who were bringing in similar items to city residents like mattresses, washers and dryers but paying more. The landfill is working on establishing a similar discount for county residents to take effect by the end of the year. He said the process is more difficult because not all county residents will uniformly be able to provide the same proof of residence and they do not want commercial customers to try and take advantage of the residential price reduction.
“Prices have gone up tremendously,” Lujan said. “We’re trying to help not only the city, but the county too.”
The landfill operations manager acknowledged the influence disposal prices have on illegal dumping and said once the reduced price goes into effect for all residents “it will help us make Ector County look better by having less trash alongside the roads.”
George said some of the most common items that are illegally dumped include mattresses and couches.
Illegally dumped litter or solid waste that is more than five pounds but less than 500 pounds results in a class B misdemeanor.
County Environmental Enforcement statistics showed 702 known cases of illegal dumping were documented by the unit’s three officers between 2017 and 2018, Precinct 1 had the most with 386 cases.
“I definitely think as big as our community is growing that we need some solutions,” George said. “I think the commissioners and the City Council should work together to find some type of resolution because the end result is our whole community getting trashed. I think working together to build a more robust recycling center and bulky item drop-off between all of the taxing entities would be a pretty good strategy.”