A trash removal business that started hauling and dumping construction waste without a permit or state approval has been ordered to cease all operations on a property southeast of Durango.
Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County, said the county became aware this spring of the unlawful business operations on County Road 309A, about 5 miles south of Durango-La Plata County Airport.
Neighbors in the rural part of the county had complained that the business – which goes by the name Durango Trash – was dumping and burning trash without any proper authorization to do so.
“It’s not a small amount of trash,” said Chuck Thompson, who lives adjacent to the property. “And the people around it are not happy. It devalues our property. It brings rodents in. We’re just not real happy about it.”
Graham said the county confirmed the business was operating a trash hauling business without any of the proper paperwork and notified the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s hazardous waste division.
In March, state inspectors found Durango Trash was burning solid waste as a method of disposal without a permit and that the business was operating as an unregistered recycling facility.
The state health department in May sent Durango Trash a “compliance advisory” that said the business needed to immediately stop burning wood waste and accepting new material.
The compliance advisory then ordered Durango Trash to either obtain the proper registrations to operate or remove the waste from the site.
Durango Trash is owned by Shane French, who moved to Bayfield from Tucson, Arizona, about eight years ago.
In summer 2017, French started leasing the property on County Road 309A.
Speaking to The Durango Herald, French said the property owner at the time told him the land was zoned commercial and suitable to operate a trash hauling business.
French said that being relatively new to the area, he did not know he needed to acquire a land-use permit with La Plata County.
“I didn’t know,” he said. “I’m not from here.”
French said about 95 percent of the material he hauls is construction waste. He brings it to the site at County Road 309A and sorts it for the valuable material, like metal, wood and plastic.
The remaining waste he takes to the dump, he said, and the wood is burned in a contained “burn curtain.” But since neighbors complained and the county and state have been involved, he said most operations on the site have stopped.
French said he has since received proper state approval to operate. A spokeswoman with CDPHE said Tuesday that Durango Trash is in compliance with state recycling regulations.
“As far as we know, the facility has stopped burning trash, which was the main concern from our solid waste program,” said spokeswoman Kelly MacGregor.
Graham said French must indicate to La Plata County by Friday whether he wishes to go through the process to obtain a land-use permit, or cease operations.
“He’s at least understanding of the steps needed to be taken in order to address the situation,” Graham said.
La Plata County’s code enforcement has a range of options for dealing with someone operating unlawfully, but Graham said the county prefers to use enforcement as a last option. Instead, county officials prefer to help someone who is not in compliance to obtain the proper permits to operate lawfully.
It is CDPHE that deals with any health or safety issues, she said. The state’s compliance advisory to French does not mention whether health or safety risks exist. Instead, it orders French to obtain licenses.
Thompson said he still sees Durango Trash trucks hauling trash to the site. He and his neighbors are frustrated, he said, and want the site either cleaned up or for the county to take action against French.
“I moved out here 20 years ago … and now within a mile of my house there’s a big dump site starting,” he said. “That pile just keeps growing, and I don’t think it’s right.”
French said he’s meeting with a land-use agent this week to decide whether to go through the land-use process.