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Eliminating Waste From Our Public Lands

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Updated: Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:38:35 MST

MESA COUNTY, Colo. -  This week NewsChannel 5 gave viewers a glimpse at how much illegal dumping happens on public lands. In 2013 there was a big spike, with the Bureau of Land Management removing more than 100,000 pounds of waste. The issue is taking a toll on our environment, as well as taxpayer's pockets.

Mesa County officials encourage residents to dispose of waste properly, bringing it to the Mesa County Landfill and Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.

Where waste like latex paint, pesticides, used motor oil, VCRs and printers end up matters.

Cameron Garcia, Solid Waste Director for Mesa County, said, "We like to keep this material out of the environment, out of the landfill and also out of our sewers."

But some residents use public lands as trash cans.

"There's a lot of hazardous waste here, it doesn't take much for it to get into the soil," said Frank Stepleton, Law Enforcement Ranger for the Bureau of Land Management.

Public Affairs Specialist for the BLM, Christopher Joyner, said, "Find a lot of drug paraphernalia, a lot of meth paraphernalia. It's nothing to find literally handfuls of nails just in a  square foot."

"It's dangerous for the environment and also for the people that come out here and use public lands," said Stepleton.

Many household items can be brought to the hazardous waste facility for free.

Hope Petrie, the Hazardous Materials Manager, said, "All of the latex and oil-based paint that comes through the facility, we then process out into through this machine and it is recycled."

The facility also accepts fluorescent light tubes, "This is a bulb crushing machine. This is a filter that sucks out the mercury so when we put the fluorescent tubes in, all the mercury then goes into here," said Petrie.

For electronic waste, the small fee residents pay goes a long way.

"At $0.42 cents a pound, you are paying for the assurance this material is going to be recycled and handled properly and that your information on any of those computers is going to be destroyed," said Garcia.

That cost will not only save the taxpayers, but is cheaper than getting caught dumping.

"Could be Class A misdemeanor, or could be a felony," said Joyner.

Ultimately there's only Colorado, only one Mesa County. Its fate is in the hands of those who live in the community.

Taking compacted and loose trash to the Solid Waste Facility costs a minimum $5, however, there area  few spring cleaning freebie days left.

Gateway Transfer Station: April 19, 2014, 9:00am - 2:00pm
DeBeque Transfer Station: April 26, 2014, 9:00am - 2:00pm

Free day exceptions include tire disposal, electronic waste, appliances containing refrigerants and commercially hauled materials.  These items are not part of the Free Day program and their disposal will be subject to normal tipping fees.  Electronic waste is accepted for a fee of $0.42 per pound at the Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.

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