Burnet County takes aim at illegal dumpers

Contributed/Burnet County Judge James Oakley
Burnet County officials contracted with a Fort Worth-based company to haul away eight rusted barrels filled with a dried resin Aug. 28 illegally dumped behind a Joppa Church into the San Gabriel River. The search for a suspect continues. Call Hill Country Area Crime Stoppers at 1-866-756-8477 to offer a tip and become eligible for a reward.

 

 

 

 

 

Connie Swinney
Staff Writer •
Law enforcement officials say illegal dumping cases are piling up in Burnet County.

During the week of Aug. 27, law enforcement reported one state jail felony arrest for illegal dumping on a property just outside Granite Shoals and unveiled two other large-scale dumping indictments – all while crews were in the midst of an un-related cleanup of several barrels illegally dumped behind a church in Joppa.

We've got a bunch pending,” Pct. 4 Constable Missy Bindseil said. “We just haven't had the personnel to enforce it.”

The most recent report involved the arrest of 60-year-old Dennie Bell on an indictment by the 424th Judicial District Grand Jury. He was booked into the Burnet County Jail on Aug. 27.

As of Aug. 30, Bell remained behind bars charged with state jail felony illegal dumping (more than 1,000 pounds), according to the Burnet County Jail log.

The case unfolded when Granite Shoals Fire Rescue responded in May to a property in the 500 block of Sunrise Dr.

There was a fire there. The (Burnet County Sheriff's Office) deputy alerted me,” said Pct. 1 Constable Leslie Ray, who is tasked with investigating alleged environmental crimes. “I went out there and did an investigation. You could see most of it from the gate.”

The constable described piles of discarded building material, old lumber, equipment parts, used appliances and other decaying and deteriorating materials.

It can become a health hazard because it can become a place that allows vermin to breed and become a health risk to your neighbors,” Ray said.

According to state law, illegal dumping involves a person disposing waste on or within 300 feet of a public highway, right-of-way as well as on public or private property. . . .

Also, on Aug. 28 a crew from Fort Worth-based TAS Environmental Services L.P. spent two hours retrieving eight 55-gallon barrels from the waterway and hauled it away to be properly discarded.

We needed to get it out of there because we didn't want a flood event that would have exacerbated the problem,” Burnet County Judge James Oakley said.

Commissioners approved $7,500 for the cleanup which was considered beyond the scope of equipment, personnel and potential waste disposal.

Because it was down a steep ravine it was better to hire a company that specializes in that type of clean up,” Bindseil said.

The barrels contained an unknown dried resin.

All indicators are that it is not hazardous material,” Oakley said.

The search for a suspect continues.

A number of other pending incidents and the scope of the county-wide problem has prompted officials to approve a partially grant-funded full-time environmental deputy to oversee the investigations with the assistance of the county's constables.

The environmental deputy is expected to start on Oct. 1.

We're finally going to have someone dedicated to environmental crimes,” Bindseil said. “This person will be able to focus their full attention on those crimes.”

The county's funding responsibility will involve a vehicle, office space and radio equipment.

Such a dedicated peace officer could be critical in apprehending a suspect in the barrel dumping case.

We encourage people to report the illegal dumping and to make public nuisance complaints,” Oakley said.

To offer tips call the Burnet County Sheriff's Office at 512-756-8080 or Hill Country Crime Stoppers.

Tipsters can also make reports to the CAPCOG illegal dumping hotline at 1-877-NO-DUMPS.

connie@highlandernews.com

Read more about pending illegal dumping cases in the Friday Aug. 31 issue of The Highlander.

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