One of the warning signs posted along a west county road. Photo courtesy of Road Warrior reader

Planning on dumping trash along a road in the country? Think again.

Sonoma County has erected signs prohibiting dumping garbage at 58 sites along county roads from Bodega Bay to the Sonoma Valley, warning “This area is under camera surveillance!!!” And it actually is. Or it might be.

As part of a two-year, $500,000 grant from the state Integrated Waste Management Board, the county bought about 10 solar-powered surveillance cameras that are moved around the 58 sites to take photos of people dumping garbage, said Rob Silva, road operations manager for the county Transportation and Public Works Department. The cameras are mounted high on tree branches and often are hard to spot.

Silva said at least four people have been convicted of illegal dumping because of evidence from the motion-detection cameras, which have flash capability for night photography.

On Mark West Station Road near Trenton-Healdsburg Road, a motion-activated, surveillance camera is mounted up in a tree -- look for the box on the tree in upper center of the photo. Click photo to enlarge. Photo courtesy of a Road Warrior reader.

He said the county used to spend $300,000 a year to pick up garbage along county-maintained roads, but budget cuts eliminated that. Now, he said, some of that work is done by a probation crew that picks up trash two days a week at a cost of $70,000 a year; a second probation crew, at a cost of $140,000 funded by the Dry Creek Rancheria’s River Rock Casino, that picks up litter only along Highway 128 in the Alexander Valley where the casino is; and crews from North Bay Disposal as part of its garbage hauling contract with the county.

Silva said officials picked the 58 sites for potential surveillance because those road-side areas had serious dumping problems.

Although the state grant ran out last year, the county has tried to keep up the surveillance program, sending a worker out a few hours a week to download the cameras’ images onto a laptop computer so that any evidence can be turned over to the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office. The cameras are moved to different sites as needed.

Silva said the amount of garbage dumped at the 58 sites has dropped since the program was started.

The county has a website — CLICK HERE to go there — with more information about such dumping and how to report illegal dumping.

A Press Democrat story in January 2009 reported on the first person convicted under the program. Teodosio Valdivia Paredes, 39, of Windsor was photographed dumping trash at a site near the Russian River. He pleaded guilty in November 2008 to illegal dumping and was fined $250 and 40 hours of community service.

According to the story, the cameras cost $6,000 each and take sharp photos up to 100 feet away. To read that story, CLICK HERE.

One of the tree-mounted surveillance cameras. Photo courtesy of a Road Warrior reader.

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  1. b3

    The county should be patting them selves on the back. Good Job guys. People who dump thier garbage along our roadways should be caught. I always thought those signs that were posted along the freeway and other roadways were of no use. They post a fune amount if caught littering. I always thought…yea only if a cop saw you throw something out your window. I think this is a great way to make people pay for poluting our country. Thank you, Thank you,n Thank you.

    December 7th, 2010 8:21 am

  2. Mike

    Finally. I get so tired of seeing the junk from yard trimings to couches, washers, dryers and TV sets along roads I travel. Hope they catch them all

    December 7th, 2010 8:39 am

  3. Randy Yaple

    We need more of these all over the county. Wish I could be part of this program setting up and monitoring these cameras. There are so many other locations that are needed another 15 or so would be usefull. They will pay for theirself in a short time.
    Randy Yaple

    December 7th, 2010 8:47 am

  4. kelkeagy

    Good job! Dumping your trash along our roadways and in our beautiful countryside is wrong. This is a good program. I wish there was a way to support this and make it even more effective.

    December 7th, 2010 9:09 am

  5. Susan

    Thank you. Thank You! Thank You!!!

    December 7th, 2010 9:25 am

  6. Amy

    Finally something is being done about this. I hope the fines collected will pay for more cameras. Thank you!

    December 7th, 2010 10:20 am

  7. smartcookie

    Our local trash hauler (North Bay Corp?) will pick up 5, FIVE! Large items a year, from EACH residential address. A refrigerator or sofa or wash machine, whatever is too large to fit in the can. Most of the time this is FREE,NO CHARGE! They do not do their part to adequately advertise this however. If the non English speakers, or readers could get word of this I’m sure they would love to comply. Wouldn’t everyone like to get rid of some junk hanging around their house? I realize I’m preaching to the choir on this one, but call your trash provider and ask what their policy is on oversize items, then ask them to spread the word.

    December 7th, 2010 10:30 am

  8. cyclist

    I see they have signs in two languages.

    December 7th, 2010 10:30 am

  9. Michael

    Another tact might be to put ads on local spanish language radio stations warning people not to dump on County roads. This problem has gotten worse and worse over the years. So nice to see something is being done about it. Great job, transportation and public works depts.!!!

    December 7th, 2010 10:42 am

  10. Ruthie

    Great program. . . keep it going!

    December 7th, 2010 10:42 am

  11. Steve

    $6,000 Bucks a camera?
    $35,000 to administer it?

    Outrageous! I could build a poacher cam for under $300.

    And monitor it for free…

    This is where the money goes…
    Kind of like the $1000 dollar toilet seat story…

    December 7th, 2010 11:49 am

  12. Linda

    Thank you!
    I so appreciate this program and the public works dept. crew that faithfully come out to pick up furniture, tires and other items that are discarded on my west county rural road, sometimes right in my driveway!

    December 7th, 2010 1:01 pm

  13. David

    They could also setup a public website where the cam images refreshed at regular intervals, allowing the public to police the areas themselves via the internet. Just like when the press demo used to have North Bay Weather site w/cams.

    That would eliminate pretty much all of the admin and monitoring costs.

    December 7th, 2010 2:25 pm

  14. Julie Cole

    What can be done about all the trash that flies out of the Waste Management trucks on the freeway. It is a constant occurance, as soon as they hit the on ramp the garbage starts flying. It infuriates me. Heading south from Cloverdale our freeways are covered with trash. I’m sure I’m not the only one that sees this happening. What can be done to make them clean our freeways and be held responsible for the mess they leave in their wake.

    December 13th, 2010 2:21 pm

  15. kippy

    Day after day, month after month I drive river road wondering if it will ever be cleaned up, it gets worse every week attracting more trash especially from martinelli winery over the hump to laguna and beyond…WHATS’UP WITH THIS PROUD COUNTY, shameful

    December 16th, 2010 9:57 am

  16. Larry the bald guy

    PIGS, JUST PIGS !!!!
    That’s what they are.
    VERY GLAD to see this program.
    I’ll fund my own less expensive camera if it’ll help and if they’ll use my data to find and punish the perps.
    I’ve even picked up some of these pig droppings
    over the years and disposed of it at the So Co Refuse sites.
    I do it because all my neighbors would have to endure the ugliness for
    too long before anyone else would touch it.
    Hope someone can find cheaper cameras so all the sites can be monitored.
    Just make sure the FINE is a big and surly amount to cover the costs!

    December 16th, 2010 4:43 pm

  17. kippy

    Thank you Larry, couldn’t have said it better

    December 17th, 2010 2:42 am

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