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Don’t trash Tahoe

Clean Tahoe project removes debris from illegal dumping. Some businesses, such as thrift stores, are often left with people's trash.

Clean Tahoe project removes debris from illegal dumping. Some businesses, such as thrift stores, are often left with people's trash.

Local businesses that have become victims of illegal dumping are tired of sifting through people’s unwanted trash and paying thousands of dollars to get rid of it.

Connie Hinton, owner of the thrift store Connie’s Clothesline on Emerald Bay Road, said she has spent thousands of dollars on signs and security cameras alone in an effort to prevent illegal dumping on her property.

However, they have done little to deter culprits.

“The problem is people don’t obey signs,” she said. “They don’t give a damn.”

Many times, Hinton arrives at her store in the morning to find old TVs, refrigerators, mattresses, stoves and more sitting on her property.

She even caught a man on tape once dumping 12 banquet tables, 24 chairs and a circus tent with no poles in the middle of the night.

“They seem to be on their own agenda,” she said.

Sometimes, the things dumped at her store are of high enough quality that Hinton can use them, but that’s not the case most of the time, she said.

The thrift store owner is often forced to dispose of the trash herself and pay several hundred dollars a month to do it. Her policy now? If people can’t drop their donations off during business hours, she doesn’t want them.

“It’s a financial hardship,” she said.

The Attic Thrift Store, which is owned and operated by the Barton Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, has also become a frequent site for illegal dumping. In fact, manager Jeff Kauschinger said it has become a daily occurrence.

On any given day, old mattresses, box springs, microwaves, computers and more will be sitting outside the building when Kauschinger gets to work. And 95 percent of the time it’s unusable trash, he said.

“People just don’t want to pay the dump bill,” he added.

The financial impact of disposing of other people’s trash isn’t unnoticeable either, Kauschinger said. Disposing of certain electronic waste the right way can cost $20 or more for a single item, so it’s not uncommon for The Attic to spend $50 to $100 each day to get rid of other people’s dropped off garbage.

“That adds up,” he said.

Helping to address the problem over the years is the Clean Tahoe Program, which involves the removal of litter from roadways and neighborhoods in the El Dorado County portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Program President Mike Phillips said with the focus on environmental awareness in the area, people might think illegal dumping doesn’t happen here as often as other places. But that just isn’t the case.

“People are not more earth conscious here. They’re not,” he said. “They’ll put trash anywhere.”

The Clean Tahoe Program collects enough trash year-to-year to fill up an entire football field 4 feet deep, he said. In other words, there hasn’t been a shortage of illegally dumped garbage to pick up.

Business owners like Hinton just ask that people take responsibility for their own trash, instead of passing their problem to somebody else.

“We’re trying to keep Lake Tahoe blue, you know?” she said. “It’s upsetting.”