Have you ever had that moment when a previous mistake comes back to haunt you? That's kind of the feeling I got last week as I listened to state officials talk about the situation at the Ballard Sand Pits. A cleanup is scheduled to begin there within the next couple of months to remove all sorts of materials that were dumped there almost 40 years ago.
Previously, the land had been used to provide sand and gravel.
Somewhere along the way, someone decided it would be a good idea to dump oilfield drilling mud and refinery waste in an area near the Nueces County River. Project Manager Barry Lands with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality seemed to say it best at last week's Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting.
"In some cases, someone offered x-amount of dollars to get this dumped. That's how these pits came to be," Lands said.
Practices like this weren't uncommon back in the 1960s, when the waste currently at the Ballard Sand Pits was allegedly dumped, but it seems like history hasn't taught us much of anything. Waste dumping doesn't always include hazardous materials, though.
Take a look at any roadside or ditch as you drive and I'm sure more often than not you'll see items ranging from old tires (which are usually in groups of four or more) to bags of trash.
There are even unspoken areas that are problematic with dumping. A portion of Bear Lane is located in a mostly unpopulated area that makes it almost impossible to catch illegal dumpers red-handed. Usually, only their mess is left behind.
A small bridge near County Road 44 also has its fair share of trash build-up. I used to live on that stretch of road and crossed over that bridge before and after it was rebuilt. It wasn't uncommon to see tires and trash bags, not to mention the odd piece of furniture that someone didn't want anymore.
But these are just a couple of areas in what I'm sure is a widespread problem. Look around an area where you live and I'm sure you will see something that resembles what I am talking about.
Sure, the county and city governments have ways they try to curb pollution, but it's not enough when the people who are supposed to take advantage of the programs don't.
So I have to wonder - will a generation later on down the line look at something we did, like trash the world we live in, and wonder, "What the heck were they thinking?" I certainly hope not.
So the next time you want to just dump that container of anti-freeze or pan of used oil out on the ground, think twice about it. And if you think it'll be cheaper and easier to just dump trash on the side of the road instead of at a landfill, consider this, the average fine for illegal dumping can max out to about $250 in the city of Corpus Christi.
Now that's a mistake that will not only haunt you, it will most definitely leave you a little lighter in that wallet or purse of yours.
Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org