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A word from local law enforcement: ‘Illegal dumping is a crime we will aggressively enforce’

December 2, 2022
By Marcy Shortuse

Illegal dumping is a very real problem everywhere right now, even on Gasparilla Island, and our local law enforcement officers have been actively and aggressively pursuing those who try to get away with it.

According to Capt. Jeff Corkhill, in the last few weeks they have been actively patrolling and looking for people who are illegally dumping.

“The sheriff’s office is making contact with anyone who is dumping and vetting that process to make sure nothing illegal is going on. If someone is found to meet the criteria of illegal dumping, we will proceed with the proper process,” he said. “We are strongely encouraging everyone who suspects illegal dumping to call our non-emergency phone number for the Sheriff’s Office as quickly as they can, so we can get the matter handled while the suspect party is still in the area.”

Right now the line between merely dropping your storm debris at the curb and  illegal dumping is becoming more defined. Most people who had severe damage have long since put their items to the curb. Right now the majority of work being done on the island is landscaping and repair or restoration projects.

If you are a resident who has hired a contractor who asks for payment for taking materials away from your house, make sure to ask where the debris is being taken. Acting interested in the process is a good way to potentially deter contractors from taking your debris down the road and dumping it in someone else’s yard.

If you see someone dumping and it looks suspicious to you, call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 477-1000. 

According to Betsy Clayton from Lee County’s Public Information Office, the County’s mission is to remove debris that resulted from the storm. 

 “Once people have cleared everything they need to from their homes, they will begin to move into the reconstruction stage,” she said. “We will not collect debris from reconstruction projects. During reconstruction or rebuilding, people need to order a dumpster to their property, just as they would for any remodeling project.”

Clayton said the Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Florida (FEMA-4673-DR-FL) has been amended. Under the President’s order, the federal share for debris removal and emergency protective measures (Categories A and B), including direct federal assistance, at 100 percent of the total eligible costs, has been extended for an additional 15 days, through December 7, under FEMA-4673-DR; Florida. The County, along with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, has already requested a 60-day extension.

 One of the most important things to remember is this: Now is not a time when “not in my backyard” attitudes should be taken. We are all in this together. Most people on the island had damage, and it isn’t fair, logical or legal to allow your storm debris of any sort to be dumped illegally. Of course it’s nice to have a clean front yard to look at. But now is the time to be nice and be patient.