Materials Management

What is illegal dumping?

Illegal dumping is the unlawful disposal of used tires, construction debris, old appliances, furniture, as well as general household, commercial and industrial wastes in places other than permitted facilities such as landfills and transfer stations. The garbage is usually dumped on vacant lots, along utility right-of-ways, on public and private lands, and at other normally unattended locations.

Reasons for illegal dumping

Illegal dumping occurs for a variety of reasons, including:

  • lack of convenient legal alternatives and presence of convenient illegal disposal sites
  • increasing disposal costs
  • lack of public awareness about the issue
  • lack of judicial understanding of environmental laws, and therefore, low fines.

Why is illegal dumping a problem?

Illegal dumps diminish the quality of life and livability of the surrounding area. Illegal dumping of garbage, discarded appliances, old barrels, used tires, furniture, yard debris, oil, antifreeze and pesticides can threaten human health, wildlife and the environment. Illegal dumps can pollute local waterways and groundwater, or cause injury to children playing in or around the dumps. Tires retaining water become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other noxious insects. Some dumps become home to rodents. Illegal dumps depress the value of surrounding land and neighborhoods.

Laws against illegal dumping

In addition to Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS 164.775, ORS 164.785, and ORS 164.805), many local jurisdictions have ordinances against illegal dumping and littering.

Who is responsible for enforcement?

DEQ responds to complaints about illegal landfills and waste tire piles in excess of 100 tires. DEQ will normally refer complaints about offensive littering or solid waste "nuisance" conditions to the county or the incorporated city or town in which the problem is reported if that city or county has a designated individual to respond to the complaint.

Generally, an illegal landfill can be defined as an area where large volumes of solid waste have been disposed of and where a real threat to human health and the environment is suspected. Sites containing large volumes of waste or more hazardous waste types, sites near water-ways or sites that have easy public access might all be considered illegal landfills. Individuals receiving waste for profit often establish such landfills.

Funding

Funding to develop and implement a comprehensive illegal dumping program varies, and each community must identify strategies that fit best with its local resources. Most projects involving illegal dumping require individuals, businesses and government agencies to work together on cleanup strategies. For example, the local government may be able to fund a program with fees built into local garbage rates but may rely on community volunteers to plan the project and provide site support. A good public awareness campaign can help minimize illegal dumping and compensate for a lack of staffing or resources. DEQ developed a list of strategies for communities cleaning up illegal dumping sites.