City gets federal money to clean up illegal dump sites

The City of Pharr has received $20,000 to clean up

A grant awarded to the City of Pharr from the Environmental Protection Agency is aimed at cleaning up illegal dumping sites through awareness and outreach.

Rick Gamboa, code enforcement coordinator for the City of Pharr, knows the problem well.

He drives around the city five days a week looking for city code violations.

He says illegal dumping is one problem that doesn't seem to have a simple solution.

The city has tried cleaning up dump sites but the trash always seems to return.

"This is a big concern for Pharr and most cities across the border," Grace Segovia, environmental education coordinator for the City of Pharr Public Works department, said.

Segovia said the $20,000 Border 2020 grant from the U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program will be used to raise awareness on how to properly discard junk and trash.

She said the target area is the south side of the city where 80 percent of the illegally dumping occurs.

"It's more of a hands on community endeavor that we are going to be tackling this year," she said.

But raising awareness isn't the only means to end the illegal activity.

"There was construction debris, tires, clothing and we are working on cleaning this sight up," Gamboa said as he points out a fenced piece of land that once was a hotbed for dumping.

He said the city has put up fences, constructed dirt mounds to deter people from dumping in problem area.

But the majority of the dumping happens at night and residents who live near these sites tell Action 4 News, better lighting is needed.

"First of all we need to light the alleyways," resident Jose Osorte said. "If you light it, people wouldn't dare dump there."

Osorte expressed his concerns to code enforcement, but on this issue, Gamboa said there is only so much the city can do.

"Maybe we can educate the people and tell them don't do this," he said. "This is our community and we want it clean."

A message he said he will keep spreading, until it sinks in.

The City of Pharr holds monthly Operation Clean Sweep" sites where residents can get rid of tires, brush, furniture and other trash.

The next one will be on February 22nd at the Jones Box Park.