Illegal dumps sprout up across the American West

Amber waves of grain? Purple mountain majesties? These days in the American West, it’s illegal dumps that are proliferating under the spacious skies: heaps of car parts, furniture, appliances, and household trash discarded on public land. The Bureau of Land Management has identified 6,482 illegal dumps since 2000, plus an additional 607 hazmat cleanups. Sprawl seems to be part of the problem, says BLM’s Felicia Probert: “There is hardly a city in the West right now that isn’t experiencing significant growth. Typically, we haven’t had the appropriation, the budget strength, to add rangers as these issues grow in the expanding West.” Dealing with a potentially hazardous material, such as an unidentified drum of liquid, can cost up to $10,000. In California, coping with illegal dumping on private and public land costs at least $87 million every year. Commercial illegal dumping in the state can bring a fine of up to $3,000 for a first offense — but dumpers generally must be caught in the act to be proved guilty.