• Outdoors Outdoors

Local residents fed up with city not taking action against illegal dumping: 'I'd like to see some kind of efforts to prevent it from happening'

The city received over 3,000 calls to 311 in 15 months reporting illegal dumping.

The city receives 30,000 calls to 311 per year reporting illegal dumping, a city worker explained.

Photo Credit: iStock

Residents of Austin, Texas, are fed up with trash being dumped all over their city — and appeals to the city have not yielded any results, KXAN reported.

One cyclist spoke to the local NBC affiliate about how the east Austin roads he loves to bike on are now filled with all kinds of trash, from tires to construction materials and more. 

"I'd like to see some kind of efforts to prevent it from happening in the first place," Doug Ballew said. "There could be even game cameras set up, you know, little game cameras that are mounted in a tree could catch license plate numbers or catch people dumping."

When a reporter spoke to Robert Alvarado, a division manager with the Austin Development Services Department Code Compliance, he was met with a shrug. The city receives 30,000 calls to 311 per year and simply does not have the capacity to deal with them all, Alvarado explained. The Cool Down later learned from a Development Services Department representative that between Jan. 1, 2023, and April 4 of 2024, the department received 3,423 reports specifically about illegal dumping.

"We're mainly reactive," Alvarado said. "Code department is not tasked with controlling what people are doing, we're reacting to violations of code."

But even from a reactive standpoint, the city has not been successful at dealing with the issue, according to Ballew and others. 

The problem is not just aesthetic. As John Davis of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department told KXAN, the illegal dumping is a major threat to local wildlife, the environment, and the health of city residents. 

"If you look around in this trash, you'll see cans of paint, polyurethane. You'll see dirty diapers, all kinds of contaminants come in this kind of waste pile," Davis said. "These chemicals can make their way into the soil and then ultimately find their way into our drinking water."

After KXAN's story aired, the city began to clean up the specific area that Ballew had complained about, showing that making noise about a problem can really make a difference.

Other methods of dealing with trash dumping in our communities include confronting people you see littering (if you feel that it is safe to do so) and even picking up litter yourself. While neither of these solutions is ideal — the tax dollars you pay should in theory be going toward making sure your community is free of trash — they are examples of people doing what they can when faced with a less-than-ideal situation.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article shared reporting from KXAN that the Austin Development Services Department receives 30,000 calls per year about illegal dumping. A Development Services Department representative later clarified to The Cool Down and KXAN that this figure is the total number of 311 calls per year, for all types of reports. We regret the error.

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