NEW YORK (CBS 2) – Garbage -- it's unsightly, it's unsanitary and it's everywhere.
Illegal dumpers are tarnishing the Big Apple in a big way, but now the city is fighting back with a trash sting, CBS 2's Maurice DuBois reported.
Illegal dumpers pull up in the middle of the night, maybe even on your block, bearing bags of trash -- old furniture, tires and used appliances. New Yorkers are fed up with it.
"It's disgusting," one person said.
"It tarnishes our reputation," another said.
"They're not going to change unless they get caught," another resident cautioned.
But there's a very good chance they will get caught – by the Sanitation Department's police force.
CBS 2 went undercover with Officers Chad Jacobson and Kevin Torres who stake out, follow and apprehend violators. Violators like one man who was seen dumping a potentially dangerous propane tank on a Brooklyn sidewalk.
"Instead of renting a container to dispose of the waste, which is quite pricey, they find a desolate area, desolate city street and they dump it," Officer Torres said.
And the illegal activity doesn't just happen on land.
"We are on our boat about 10 months out of the year patrolling the waters," said Joshua Verleun of the environmental group Riverkeeper.
Verleun said dumping in New York's waterways has also become a tremendous problem.
"It's hard to know who's dumping sometimes. In the case of tires it might be an auto body shop. In the case of appliances it might be somebody who is hauling waste," Verleun said.
Riverkeeper's team helps to track down these illegal dumpers and then clean up their mess.
"It's not fair. It's not a nice neighborly practice," said Sheila Joseph, founder of Kid Care Network, a school for autistic children.
Joseph owns a lot that's been repeatedly dumped on.
Lately she's getting help from Gary Monteil, the owner of the junk removal company, JunkPros, to finally clean it up.
"We're a small nonprofit working with kids. We couldn't afford to get the place clean without the help of donated services," Joseph said.
Monteil said it would normally cost a property owner up to $1,000 to have all the debris hauled away, but he and his team are volunteering their time so the school can turn the space into a playground.
"We have to do our part. I guess we all have to do our part," Monteil said.
Many of the items dumped, like air conditioners, refrigerators and paint cans, often leak toxic chemicals into the environment. Fines for dumping materials like these can range up to $20,000.
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