The rise of half-finished or vacant subdivisions in Rockdale County has led to an increase in something else -- illegal dumping.
Marshall Walker, Rockdale County director of planning and zoning, said the county has issues with illegal dumping in unfinished subdivisions, and code enforcement workers periodically check vacant subdivisions for illegal dumping.
"It's kind of random inspections -- it's ongoing," Walker said. "As you're out for something else, whether it's code enforcement or inspectors, while they're out for other calls, if they pass by one of these subdivisions, they'll take a trip through to check it out."
Through the end of July, 120 dump sites have been cleared by code enforcement and the Community Compliance program. There have been 1,805 bags of trash removed from rights of way, and three tons alone were removed during a May clean-up event.
Walker said most illegal dumping consists of smaller items such as household trash or yard trash, though there are some larger items, such as sofas or beds.
If code enforcement finds identification in the trash, the county will issue a citation in Magistrate Court. Magistrate Court would then impose up to $1,000 in fines or up to 60 days in jail.
"We're trying to get the word out that we do prosecute for illegal dumping," Walker said.
Though the county will clean up the sites if they find illegal dumping, code enforcement is working to prevent dumping before it can happen.
"We try to be proactive and do the research on these subdivisions, the vacant subdivisions, ahead of time. Find out who the owners are and try to ensure that they do the maintenance things -- cut the grass, keep it in a decent condition, rather than something that promotes those types of illegal activities," Walker said. "On a lot of these vacant subdivisions that have been foreclosed on by banks, we're trying to work with those corporations to see about barricading off those subdivisions until they can start constructing homes again. Just keep people out."
Walker said the county randomly inspects properties, and makes sure to visit every property every two to three weeks.
"We don't have a set time frame; they don't know when we'll be by. You can't watch and say 'Well, they're here on Tuesday of this week, they're not going to be back for two weeks,'" Walker said. "It doesn't work that way."
During inspections code enforcement may uncover illegal dumping, but most of the time, reports of illegal dumping come from citizens, according to Walker.
"Somebody sees something and calls code enforcement and we check it out," Walker said. "We don't have a big code enforcement staff, but they're always out there, they're always looking. We rely on citizens to be our eyes and ears out here."
Citizens can report illegal dumping to code enforcement by calling 770-278-7103.
"It gets back to the neighborhood and the community as a whole," Walker said. "When these properties are junked up, it lowers the property value for everyone. It also increases the chances of getting those critters you don't want, so it becomes a health issue there. So, we try to get them cleaned up."