If you travel almost anywhere in rural Oklahoma you are bound to come across a not-so-hidden secret; illegal dump sites. From broken furniture to old appliances, they are more than a eyesore in some cases they can be a danger to crops, cattle and even people.
While the problem isn't going away, one county has taken a proactive step to combat illegal dumping and force the people responsible to clean up.
"What is your image going to be if on your five mile track into the country to look at that piece of property you pass a dozen dump sites with couches and refrigerators and household trash just thrown in the ditches," said Lt. Dan Jackson of the Canadian County Sheriff's Office.
Jackson heads up the county's Environmental Unit and says they deal with everything from common tossed trash to serious environmental hazards.
The sheriff's office says the environmental cleanup is one of the factors responsible for the massive growth in Canadian county in recent years. Deputies say clean county roads help entice people to move their families or businesses to the area.
"I believe in the program, it's vital for the prosperity of Canadian County the continued prosperity," Jackson told Fox 25.
While other counties in Oklahoma have similar programs, few are as successful as Canadian County's. In the past year along they've investigated and cleaned up more than 1,000 illegal dump sites.
"This to me is one of the most rewarding careers there is," Deputy Jacob Briggs told Fox 25.
Deputy Briggs is hands on when it comes to investigating illegal dumping. He uses high-tech tools as well as old-fashioned detective work to track down those who trash up the county roads. "Ever since I've taken over as the environmental deputy a lot of people are now trying to cover their tracks," Briggs said.
Covering tracks sometimes includes partially burning identifying information before dumping it. Briggs says a lot of the time people make mistakes and end up getting a knock on the door.
"We get some pretty interesting reactions, generally most people are surprised, they get a blank look on their face just because they are so shocked we were able to find out who it was where they lived," Briggs said.
Illegal dumping carries up to a $5,000 fine and if someone is convicted they may find themselves out picking up the trash left behind by others. The sheriff's office says if you see someone dumping trash or notice a dump site you should call them at 405-422-3187.