California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Partnership 2000

Guidelines for Writing an Illegal Dumping Ordinance

In Arlo Guthrie's song Alice's Restaurant, a name on an envelope under a half a ton of garbage and twenty-seven 8 by 10 color glossy photos with circles and arrows to be used as evidence was sufficient to arrest the dumper and for the court to order fines of $50.00 and the dumper to pick up the garbage. Has your enforcement of illegal dumping gone that smoothly?

What is illegal dumping?

Disposal of waste/unwanted materials at a location other than at an approved disposal facility (landfill or transfer station), recycling facility or at a site that composts.

If you do not have a local illegal dumping ordinance and are trying to use the State Housing Law, other sections of the Health and Safety Code, Penal Code, or Title 14 California Code of Regulations, Sections 17301 et seq. you are working with a handicap. Having a local ordinance will make enforcement easier.

Seed for the CIWMB: Would be nice, and may help to get around some local politics, if the CIWMB would develop tools in the form of regulations to assist LEA's with enforcement actions regarding illegal dumping.

Where do you start?

Contact your County Counsel/City Attorney. They belong to an association one purpose of which is information sharing. Ask your counsel, or you may proceed on your own, to obtain copies of other jurisdictions' illegal dumping ordinances. If you find one or more ordinances you like, contact the jurisdiction again and find out what parts of the ordinance have worked well and what parts have not worked out. Then plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize.

What do you want to include in your ordinance?

  • Authority - Although the rules for each entity differ a little, the authority for Cities and Counties to draft local ordinances is provided in the Government Code.
  • Scope/applicability
  • Definitions - In addition to solid waste, you may wish to define garbage, rubbish and rubble.
  • Requirements - Strongly encourage a catch-all section such as the following be included:

It is unlawful, in          County, for any person, public or private, to place, deposit or dump or cause to be placed, deposited, or dumped, or allow to accumulate, any solid or liquid waste in, or upon, any public or private highway, street, alley or road, waterway, lake, stream, or any lot or parcel of land, whether public or private other than in approved disposal sites.

A provision of this nature gives you the ability to go after the dumper or the known entity, the property owner.

  • Enforcement - Describe evidence required in order to go after a dumper, such as three pieces of identifying information (e.g.: three envelopes with same name and address).

There is a frustrating side to this. The District Attorney has total discretion regarding whom he prosecutes. The DA is often busy pursuing cases considered more significant
and will prioritize his efforts. Although identifying information may be found, the DA may just go after the known entity, the property owner, for allowing the accumulation. Is it fair? No, but life is not always fair. A traveling prosecutor may be more willing to go after the dumper, if your jurisdiction will allow use of such a prosecutor.

(At the conference it was announced that Cal EPA has a traveling prosecutor program).

Some enforcement options include Official Notice letters or citations with court follow up as necessary, clean & lien programs if notice does not result in abatement.

  • Appeal Process - Keep it simple. Use the LEA Program Director or equivalent as the hearing officer.
  • Penalties - Infraction or misdemeanor.

If first violations are infractions, make the fines significant. A $25.00 fine generally will not make much of a point. Consider a higher amount with reduction if wastes removed.

In addition to a straight penalty, try to have the court order that the LEA's time for enforcement actions also be reimbursed.

Preventive measures may also help minimize illegal dumping such as mandatory collection areas. The political climate may influence your ability setting up mandatory collection. Be patience, the climate may change.

When receiving complaints, if your counsel will allow it, avoid taking anonymous complaints. You will find so doing will cut down significantly on neighborhood feud calls.

Although drafted in 1980, an in need of fine tuning, Placer County Code has worked well for the most part. If you would like a copy, you may find it on the internet at: Click on Chapter 8, then click on Article 8.16 Article 8.16 will refer you to penalties that may be found in Chapter 1, Article 1.24 of the Code.

Or you may contact:

David Altman
Placer County Department of Health & Human Services
Environmental Health Services
11454 'B' Avenue
Auburn, CA 95603

Last updated: August 31, 2005
LEA Conference,
Melissa Hoover-Hartwick: (916) 341-6813