NEW MEXICO (KRQE) –  Illegal dumping is a statewide issue, but many rural communities don’t have convenient places to dump trash, and they don’t have the resources for the cleanup. A partnership created more than a decade ago for one part of New Mexico could be a model for the entire state. 

New Mexico is known for its natural beauty, but illegal dumping leaves mounds of trash in places all over the state. “Let’s remember that we live in the land of enchantment, and keeping our state beautiful and our lands clean that’s at the heart of a lot of our culture,” said Patrick Peck, Director of the South Central Solid Waste Authority.

Last week lawmakers listened to an update on one initiative working to combat this problem in Doña Ana County – and how it can be expanded. “Down along the New Mexico, Texas, Mexico border, there’s illegal dumping in homes, you know, in yards, and people don’t have access to the resources and the infrastructure that they need,” Peck said. 

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The illegal dumping partnership of Doña Ana County has worked to clean up rural communities across the state around cities like Deming, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, and Grants. The multi-agency model has created programs to clean up 3.5 million pounds of trash. 

Peck says this model is adaptable and can be used anywhere in New Mexico. “What you do is each one of the partners identifies one of the resources they have. From the Solid Waste Authority, we have trucks, and we have a landfill,” Peck said. “BLM has access to some funding to hire students, and they have law enforcement and rangers that can go out and investigate these sites.”

Right now, Rio Arriba County doesn’t have its own landfill making it difficult to properly throw away trash. “Rural communities are really struggling with waste management. In Rio Arriba county, they are transporting waste from a transfer station to Rio Rancho,” Peck said.

Illegal dumping isn’t just unappealing to look at, it creates a public safety issue. “When you have open waste out in public lands or open lands, or you invite vectors and viruses and mosquitoes. It becomes a health hazard,” said Peck. 

COVID-19 and employee turnover hurt the program over the past couple of years. So far in 2022, the model has helped clean up more than 151,000 pounds of trash.