Moving a mountain-of trash - Albuquerque Journal

Moving a mountain-of trash

It appeared when no one was looking, when no one saw who dumped it all into this otherwise bucolic neighborhood in the East Mountains.

Here, litter consists of the pine cones and scrub oak leaves that fall from the abundant foliage or the caked dirt that crumbles off a hiking boot. But this was litter of the worst sort, the human sort, the sordid sort.

Lots of it, heaped in a pile across N.M. 337 from the entrance to the Ramblewood neighborhood. Shoes, clothing, kitchen appliances, TVs, a mattress and bed frame, carpeting, toiletries, tires, dishes, pots and pans, a stereo, a car battery, a torn tent, dirty clothes, a photo CD, papers, plates, casino membership cards, a credit card, prescription bottle, cracked plastic tubs filled with junk.

None of it was new. None of it was good.

“It looks like somebody cleaned out an abandoned house and left it here,” neighbor Danis Frombach said. “It’s maybe a couple of truckloads’ worth. It’s a mountain.”

And that was the better stuff in the heap. Below all that was rotting food, smelly debris, broken glass, animal feces.

“It was pretty gross,” neighbor Melanie Sanchez-Dinwiddie said.

Near as anybody can figure, the trash was dumped around Nov. 3. Neighbors took to NextDoor to voice their ire.

“People are so inconsiderate,” Debbie Rickman wrote. “They could have used the same energy to take this crap to the dump.”

Jenna Dinwiddie, 11, and siblings Diego, 8, and Rilee, 13, brave the wind and stench Thursday to help pick up trash dumped in their Ramblewood neighborhood in the East Mountains.(COURTESY OF MELANIE SANCHEZ-DINWIDDIE)

April Fletcher wrote: “People who dump their trash like that are no better than pond slime!”

Cindy Boyd added: “This really makes me mad. People can be such jerks.”

But who were the jerks? A few items listed two different names, neither of which I have been able to connect to real people.

And who would clean up this mess? Several neighbors say they made calls to the state Department of Transportation and Bernalillo County. Promises were made, they said. But the trash remained.

So the neighbors took matters – and trash – into their own hands.

On Thursday, several neighbors showed up at the dump site to bag and pick up what they could.

Among those out in the bitter winds that day were Sanchez-Dinwiddie’s children, Rilee, 13, Jenna, 11, and Diego, 8.

“Bless their hearts,” their proud mother said. “They were fighting the wind blowing their trash bags. It was cold, and it wasn’t a pleasant task. But they kept at it. They were happy to pitch in. And when we were done, they felt a sense of accomplishment.”

Carol Cochran was out there, too, collecting the trash and loading it into her vehicle, where the rot putrefied overnight because the East Mountain Transfer Station nine miles north was closed for Veterans Day.

“My vehicle is not smelling too good,” Cochran said.

Even with their efforts, the neighbors barely made a dent in the fetid refuse pile.

“There’s still a lot of big pieces like beds and a TV that we couldn’t lift,” Sanchez-Dinwiddie said. “There’s plenty more to do.”

So a plan was devised among the neighbors to come together to clean up the mess Sunday afternoon.

“A clean neighborhood is a safer neighborhood,” Frombach said. “It implies that neighbors are paying attention.”

So is Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty, whose district includes the East Mountains.

Pyskoty, who hadn’t been contacted about the trash until I emailed her, said she has alerted the county’s Illegal Dumping Partnership, a multi-agency task force focused on combating illegal dumping throughout Bernalillo County. Each year, the partners clean up more than 1,250 tons of rubbish, but county officials say the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic.

As the name implies, such dumping is illegal, and offenders can face fines from $100 to $1,000.

“Trash dumping in the East Mountains is disgusting and has become more common, unfortunately,” Pyskoty said.

On Friday, she said the county was trying to figure out which agency has jurisdiction of the area where the trash lies and have it remove the trash. The items with names written on them were also being turned in to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office to see if the trash transgressor can be tracked down.

Either way, neighbors appear determined to clean up the mess. In this craptastic year full of garbage and rancor, that’s pretty neat. Their neighborhood will be neat again, too.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793,


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