Volunteers pledge to clean 15 tons of illegally-dumped waste

illegal dumping Taos
A TV sits among garbage in the Miranda Canyon in the Taos area.

TAOS COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Taos County locals fed up with illegally-dumped garbage and waste are planning to remove 15 tons of it this Saturday.

“Being born and raised in Taos, New Mexico, it makes me very sad,” Taos County Code Enforcement official Lorenzo Gutierrez said, “It hurts my heart and makes me feel as though people are disrespecting this land.”

Sitting in what could be a beautiful, clean piece of land is piles of waste.

But more than just a sight for sore eyes, the garbage is a health hazard. That’s because it’s sitting in a watershed area, which makes any dumping there a violation of the EPA’s Clean Water Act.

“What happens is people come and they dump trash, construction material, landscape waste, and when it rains, it mobilizes a lot of those contaminants found in those trash items,” Rachel Conn said.

Conn is the Executive Director of Amigos Bravos, a group dedicated to water conservation in the state. Amigos Bravos is also the driving group behind this Saturday’s “9th Annual 2015 Taos River and Land Clean-Up” event.

The event goal is to clean up 15 total tons of trash in three hours, picking up everything from mattresses to TVs to decaying animal carcasses.

But they can’t do it without the help of volunteers.

Pascual Maestas is a coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.

“We bring out our crews consisting of Corps members between the ages of 16 and 25, and we bring them in and help get all of this out,” Maestas said.

In the past, as many as 200 volunteers have helped out. Coordinators of this year’s event are hoping more people will come out to help.

But the root of the issue, Maestas and Gutierrez both said, is to stop illegal dumpers from trashing the land and causing potential health problems.

“The most unfortunate thing is that after we clean this site, dumpers will either continue to dump or find another site,” Maestas said. “So I feel like it’s really about educating the public and getting people to stop dumping completely,” he said.

Gutierrez said if he’s able to track down an illegal dumper, the offender will have to clean the garbage they dumped, as well as pay a fine.

If you’d like to volunteer this Saturday, it’s not too late.

Volunteers in Taos plan to meet at 10 a.m. at St. James Episcopal Church parking lot, and volunteers in Questa will meet at 10 a.m. at the old Central Bank in Questa.

For more information on getting involved, contact Amigos Bravos Coordinator Julia Pyatt at 575-758-3874.

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