Pictured: County Abatement Officer Hector Zertuche investigated several areas of a property off of West Highway 44 recently, and found a large number of illegally dumped tires, oil filters, oil barrels and batteries. Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

Rodriguez faces charges of illegal dumping off Hwy. 44

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Charges were filed against a San Diego resident in connection to an illegal dumping case of more than 1,000 pounds of tires, oil containers, old batteries and other industrial debris off of west Highway 44 near County Road 170.

Jose Rodriguez received a citation for illegal dumping of more than 1,000 pounds or 200 cubic feet and criminal trespass by Jim Wells County Abatement Officer Hector Zertuche.

Zertuche was first contacted in November by the property owner, Rolando Pena, concerning the illegal dumping of tires on his property at 3521 W. Highway 44.

An oilfield trucking company had leased the location, according to Zertuche's report, but when the officer first came to inspect the area; no company personnel were present.

According to 911 Coordinator Sam Sanchez, Zertuche found the address was assigned to Cheetah Transportation. He found out also that Rodriguez was the owner of the trucks in question.

Pena said the lease agreement stated the businesses use was for the front portion of the property.

The back portion, which contained several hundred tires, oil drums and buckets filled with black oily fluid, along with abandoned vehicles and batteries, is not part of the lease agreement.

Several oil filters were scattered, both in the buckets and on the ground around the oily area. Black oily patches of ground were also visible during Zertuche's inspection of the illegal dumping ground.

"The ground around the barrels was saturated with oil," Zertuche said in his report. "Removal of the oil and barrels may require the use of an environmental cleaning professional."

During his inspection, Zertuche found no permit numbers displayed that would certify the location was a permitted disposal site for such materials.

Zertuche received a call from Rodriguez Jan. 17 where he stated he would begin removing the tires to another property.

Zertuche advised him that most, if not all of the materials, needed to be moved to a certified disposal site. He stressed the need to meet with Rodriguez at the property in order to discuss the situation, according to the report. Rodriguez would not give the officer his number, but did leave a pager number to reach him, in order to set up a day to meet. Rodriguez failed to call the officer back before the end of January, in turn, the case was then referred to the county attorney's office with a charge of criminal trespass, which is a class B misdemeanor, and to the district attorney's office on the illegal dumping charge, which is a state jail felony.

On Jan. 24, the county court held arraignment for 31 abatement cases involving illegal dumping.

Out of the 31 cases, seven people pleaded guilty, three pleaded not guilty and will go to trial. Four people had returned notices because of old addresses.

Zertuche found new address for all four, and their notices to appear were re-sent. Six individuals were rescheduled for arraignment, while five others failed to appear, so a $500 cash bond was issued along with a warrant for their arrest. Six cases were dismissed after one individual involved in the same case took sole responsibility for the charge.