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New bill further combats illegal dumping

Source: Written by Melissa van Ruiten

Assembly Bill 2374, legislation to help combat illegal dumping across California, was introduced by state Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) and sponsored by Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis. The bill increases the fines for individuals and businesses who are illegally dumping commercial quantities of waste.

The problem is especially evident in areas such as unincorporated Brentwood, along the Deer Valley Road corridor near Kaiser-Antioch, and on Vasco Road between Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

Any solid waste that is dumped on any property, public or private, without proper authorization is considered illegal dumping. Mattresses, furniture, large appliances, and other commercial business items, such as tires and other hazardous waste are some examples of items that are commonly found discarded along roadways and in natural areas. Illegal dumping not only harms the health, social, environmental, and economic well-being of communities, it also discourages investment and development, decreases property values, and makes communities more vulnerable to crime, according to the press release.

“The illegal dumping of trash, furniture, mattresses, appliances, and toxic materials is out of control in both our rural and urban areas – it isn’t just unsightly, it is putting the health of our communities and environment at risk,” said Bauer-Kahan in a press release. “Every Californian deserves the right to live in clean, garbage-free neighborhoods.”

The bill would amend Section 374.3 of the Penal Code by “increasing the maximum fine for the dumping of commercial quantities of waste from $3,000 to $5,000 for the first conviction, from $6,000 to $10,000 for the second conviction, and from $10,000 to $20,000 for the third and any subsequent convictions,” according to the legislative counsel’s digest. “This bill would also require, instead of authorize, the court to order a person convicted of dumping commercial quantities of waste to remove, or pay for the removal of, the waste matter that was illegally dumped.” Additionally, it gives courts the power to demand that the offender surrender their professional or business license and have their name or business name posted or published for public notice, as a condition of their probation.

Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover, who also serves on the county’s Illegal Dumping Ad Hoc Committee, added, “Residents deserve beautiful land and clean neighborhoods to live and work in. We want to be sure that everyone, including commercial businesses, hear loud and clear that they cannot illegally dump in our community without hefty fines, hence the need for this legislation.”

Previous legislative efforts were made in 2019 to fund a pilot program in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The program was designed to support additional enforcement of illegal dumping. Along with increased enforcement, other helpful factors included additional street lighting and cameras that were added throughout the East Bay. While the program was successful, it became apparent that further resources and greater penalties would be needed in order to challenge illegal dumping on a wider scale, according to the press release.

“It’s important for the public to understand that dumping has an impact on the quality of our drinking water, and that it disproportionately impacts marginalized communities. I applaud Bauer-Kahan for her efforts to empower us with the tools we need at the local level to start getting greater control of this problem,” said Burgis.

“By upping the fines and providing tools for the courts to publicly hold violators accountable for committing these acts, we disincentivize actors and create public knowledge on who not to work with,” said Bauer-Kahan. “I want to thank Contra Costa County for bringing this bill idea to my attention and look forward to getting it implemented statewide.”