As Pima County’s efforts to clear sediment along the Pantano Wash continue, the city’s contractor recently found massive amounts of waste in the riverbed, including old car bodies, tires, rejected grave markers and household trash.
“There’s so much junk it boggles the mind,” Eddie Paul Garcia, a civil engineering inspector at Psomas who is handling the project, said. “It’s really amazing how much stuff people in previous generations would dump in the river here.”
So far the project has unearthed 240 tons of concrete, 80 tons of scrap metal, 10 tons of tires and approximately 50 headstones that were thrown out for flaws. While many of the car bodies date back to the 1950s and 1960s when they were often use to shore up river banks, household trash is likely the result of people recently using pits from gravel quarries as impromptu landfills.
“Our saying here is ‘trash begets more trash,’” Jennifer Lynch, a waste program and enforcement manager at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said. “So when someone dumps something like a car or something big in a wash, then neighbors see it and think, ‘Oh, it’s a new landfill, I’m going to dump my trash here, too.’”
She said much of the trash dumped came from contractors and encouraged residents to ensure workers on their property do not follow suit as property owners could be liable.
“What we tell people to do is pay half up front and then pay the other half when you get a receipt from a landfill to ensure that you aren’t getting scammed,” Lynch said.