Business owners say illegal dumping on East Austin road must stop

Ferguson Cutoff is a well-traveled two-lane road that links US 290 East to Old Manor Road. It’s also a dumping ground. 

"The trash is coming back. It’s starting to pop back up again,” David Apperley said.

Apperley works at a plumbing company located along Ferguson Cutoff. He says past efforts to clean up the area, in response to his calls, provided limited relief with questionable enforcement tactics.

"They put one on this pole, facing that way, and they put a fake camera way down there facing this way, which is not going to get nothing except that way where they're dumping the trash down there,” said Apperley.

The trash, Apperley says, attracts other criminal activity.

"We are standing here the other night, and a car pulls up to about right here and rolls the window down and fires off eight rounds into the woods and peels off," Apperley said. "I call police and they say they say next time it happens, call us. When do we get some action, when somebody gets killed, the city is not doing anything about it and they don’t care."

The dumping is taking place in two different jurisdictions which apparently has hampered a coordinated response. Ferguson Cutoff runs from Austin next to the Big Walnut Creek Nature Preserve and down a section of road maintained by Travis County. The Austin section is in Council District 1, represented by Austin City Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison. The county section is part of Precinct 2, represented by Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea.

An illegal dump not far away along Old Manor Road is an example of how difficult it is to stop this problem. The property owner put up concrete barricades to discourage the dumping, but it didn't work.

"But the first time somebody drops a couch off then we have a table and chairs, then we have some TVs and another couch and then there's a refrigerator and then you know you have a whole living room out here,” said Kent Wahl, COO of AAA Auger.

Wahl believes the cycle can be broken.

"We are going to need something more sustained. We are going to need something; either first, two times a week for a few weeks, then it can probably slow down,” said Wahl.

Wahl is hopeful a new enforcement effort may be launched after FOX 7 spoke to city and county leaders.

"So now that they are both aware they'll figure it out, yeah and I think just by y’all calling, we are excited about just coming out here and keeping this area a lot cleaner, and safe; it’s got to be some kind of health hazard with everything that has been dropped out here,” said Wahl. 

In a statement, Councilmember Harper-Madison said: 

"Illegal dumping is absolutely unacceptable, whether it happens in West Austin or in East Austin. Now that my office has been alerted to this problem, I am committed to working with city staff and residents to find a long-term solution that protects our environment and keeps Austin beautiful."

A spokesperson for Commissioner Shea pointed out that cleanup of the trash in the nature preserve is the responsibility of the City of Austin. The County will remove items in the right away of the roads that they maintain.