A vacant property on North Whidbey has turned into a sprawling illegal dumping site replete with old tires, vehicles, furniture and garbage of all kinds.
The dumping site is not only visible from the road but extends back via a dirt lane with several twists and turns. Squatters have been known to live on the property.
The state of the land has long raised concerns among neighbors and county officials, but the problem may finally be resolved. A clean-up effort is currently underway by the property owner, according to Island County Planning Department staff.
According to Island County’s assessor website, the market value for the property is listed as $816,702 for the 20-acre lot which has two dilapidated structures. Michael Maddox of Redding, California owns the property. The original owner, Jeff Maddox, died in January of this year. Michael Maddox could not be reached for comment.
Thomas Kosloske lives less than a mile away from the dump site. He is particularly worried about toxins from garbage leaking into the soil. He said the problem started as a “full-time garage sale,” and he thinks the dumping has been going on for several years.
Kosloske said he and several neighbors have long been worried about the large amount of tires on the property and the potential for a fire. He would like the property’s well to be tested, along with any well within 1,000 feet of the site.
“It’s more than an eyesore,” Kosloske said, adding that he does not think any one person could handle cleaning up the large site.
In an email to Kosloske, Island County Code Enforcement Officer Mike Beech wrote that Maddox has retained an attorney in order to formally evict anyone living on the parcel.
Kosloske also reached out to the Washington State Department of Ecology and was told by Kelli Sheldon, Environmental Report Tracking System and State Environmental Policy Act coordinator of the Northwest Region, that the department does not have jurisdictional authority over garbage or debris on residential property.
She wrote in an email to Kosloske that the department’s role would be to “encourage cleanup through our Voluntary Cleanup Program,” but the department itself does not require clean up.
According to the Department of Ecology’s website, the Voluntary Cleanup Program helps property owners who are independently cleaning up a site. The department provides technical assistance for a fee.
The website, however, also points out that the “accumulations of waste tires harbor disease-transmitting vermin and they present hazards from pollution and fire risk.” The website states that the department works with public entities to clean up tire dump sites, including “the transportation as well as the recycling or disposal of these tires.”
Scarlet Tang, communications manager for the Ecology Department’s Northwest Region, wrote in an email to the News-Times that “oil spills and hazardous waste do fall under our authority, and we have the ability to investigate and require corrective action. Local governments generally handle garbage issues.”
It is unknown if there are any toxins at the site.
Large amounts of garbage and debris on residential property violates county code. The Island County Planning Department has an open case on the property.
According to Island County’s website, code enforcement enforces county code through a complaint system. Code violations can include building without permits, critical areas violations and junk vehicles.
Mary Engle, director of the Island County Planning Department, said the site has been a problem for over 20 years, but she had no idea how the dumping became so extensive. She said the responsibility to clean up the site falls fully on the property owner but acknowledged that a lot of property owners could not afford such an extensive clean-up process.
Both Kosloske and Engle said the site as it stands now is an improvement from what it used to be. Engle said she believes the “issue is being resolved.”
Engle acknowledged that the tires could be an environmental or safety issue in the future, but she does not think there are any immediate safety concerns.