TUCSON – A victim of illegal dumping is being threatened with steep fines if he does not clean up his property.
Kenneth Tibbs and his wife live on the San Pedro River near San Manuel. They bought the property in 2000. Erosion has revealed cars, tires and other large items were buried on his property. Trespassers have also illegally dumped more waste.
“We didn't know that stuff was there,” Tibbs said, “and it was quite a shock.”
Somebody filed a complaint with the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality. An investigator confirmed the report, and the county sent the first violation notice in February. He was told to clean up the property in 30 days.
Tibbs is a 74-year-old disabled Army veteran.
“Thirty days wouldn't have been enough if I had a crew of 50,” Tibbs said. “And obviously I can't lift it and carry it out of there. We tried. We injured ourselves.”
The notices kept arriving in the mail, threatening fines of $500 per day.
“We paid all the taxes,” Tibbs said, “and now my taxes, I think, are helping pay them to harass me.”
Ursula Nelson is the director of the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality. She said the department was obligated to investigate when it received a complaint.
“We really don't have any discretion,” Nelson said. “The law is pretty clear.”
Tibbs has not been fined yet.
“We will be very flexible as far as the amount of time that we allow people,” Nelson said, “because we know sometimes it takes longer than 30 days.”
Tibbs was not able to clean the mess or hire a crew, so he is selling the property. He said he is only making what he owed on the loan.
“I couldn't comply with the law,” Tibbs said, “so I sold it to a guy that knows about it and can comply. And it was a painful thing to do, but we didn't have any choice.”
Tibbs said the buyer should take ownership of the property in January. He said he was given permission to stay there a little longer as he looks for a new home.
“It has been one of the most painful things I have ever gone through,” Tibbs said.