Border cleanup is Risky business
Trash removal becoming tougher, more dangerous
By SARA SMITH
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:34 AM MST
PHOENIX, With many of those crossing the border illegally shifting to
remote areas in response to stepped-up enforcement, the trash they
leave behind is becoming tougher — and riskier — to clean up, the
director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality told
lawmakers last week.
"These are dangerous areas," Henry Darwin told the Senate Border
Security, Federalism and States Sovereignty Committee. "These are
known areas of illegal immigration, illegal drug trafficking."
He called trash along the border "a fairly significant issue" that
has persisted even as illegal border crossings have declined slightly.
Showing pictures of trash-strewn landscapes, Darwin said that illegal
immigrants leave behind an estimated 2,000 tons of clothing,
backpacks, plastic bottles, soiled diapers, abandoned vehicles and
more each year.
The worst sites are where illegal immigrants or drug smugglers wait
or camp, he said, adding that rain often washes the debris into
With those sites increasingly in remote areas, getting cleanup crews
and equipment to them is more difficult, Darwin said.
"It's causing a real challenge for us to get the material out of
the desert," he said.
ADEQ organizes its own cleanups and partners with organizations,
local agencies and the Tohono O'odham Nation, Darwin said, adding
that his agency has created a website, www.azbordertrash.gov, to
share information on those efforts. The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and Bureau of Land Management contribute most of the money for
ADEQ's border efforts, he added.
While ADEQ publicizes the general areas of its border-cleanup events,
it won't announce exactly where, out of concern for the safety of
those who may try to help on their own, he said.
Darwin said Pima County — the Tohono O'odham Nation in
particular — has been hardest-hit.
Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, noted that one of the sites featured
in Darwin's presentation is a half mile from her southeastern
"In many of these lay-up sites that I've been out to, you can
actually smell them before you get to them," she said.
Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, suggested using inmate labor to address the
"It's equal to the all-volunteer effort, but in a sense it's
better because we can do it day in and day out," Melvin said.
Darwin said ADEQ is working with the state Department of Corrections
and the governor's office to arrange inmate help.
Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Vail, the majority whip, said curbing illegal
immigration is the surest solution.
"I appreciate the efforts to clean the desert up, but I want
somebody to chip in to try to stop the problem in the first place,"
Border cleanup event
-- When: 9 a.m. Saturday
-- Cleanup area: Santa Cruz River in Rio Rico
-- What to bring: Hat and work shoes
River cleanup planned
A reader submitted this photo taken on Sept. 24, 2011 to illustrate
the problem of illegal dumping near the banks of the Santa Cruz
River. The photos were reportedly taken between Pendleton Drive and
the river, about one mile east of the golf course.
Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:37 am
River cleanup planned Nogales International Nogales International | 0
Environmental, government and community groups are co-sponsoring an
effort on Jan. 28 to clean up illegal trash-dumping sites along the
Santa Cruz River in Rio Rico.
Volunteers are needed and are asked to meet at 9 a.m. at the Rio Rico
ballpark parking lot on Pendleton Drive, one mile south of Rio Rico
Drive. A carpool will transport workers to the sites.
Gloves, trash bags, tools, water and snacks will be provided for
volunteers, who are asked to bring a hat and work shoes.
Co-sponsors of the event are Friends of the Santa Cruz River, Anza
Trail Coalition, Rio Rico Properties, Santa Cruz County and the
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
For more information, contact Jen Parks at (520) 235-4325 or j_park78@