In an effort to track illegal dumping and prevent further littering on major roadways, the San Joaquin County Public Works Department has developed an Adopt-A-Road program. The new program seeks civic-minded volunteers to help clean up roadways.

The program was established after county Public Works Director Kris Balaji noticed an increase in spending for road cleanup, as well as the strain it put on staff resources.

The county public works department monitors 10 unincorporated regions, and the vast amount of ground they have had to cover has led to their roadway cleanup to double in cost.

“We used to spend $600,000 annually in cleanup efforts, and we are now seeing the number jump to almost $1.2 million a year, because we are having to send more crews out because of the incessant dumping,” Balaji said.

Crews who respond to cleanup complaints can lose nearly half a day, collecting trash on the road, taking it to the dump and getting to another site, according to Balaji.

Illegal dumping on county roads has always been an issue, but officials have seen an increase over the past three years. Ongoing safety concerns have mounted due to the dumping, he said.

“Our crews should be fixing potholes and fixing the road, the fact that we have to deploy crews to pick up trash on a daily basis, is making the roadway unsafe,” Balaji said.

Public Works staffers have had to balance cleanup and infrastructure maintenance, which is causing roadway maintenance to be neglected, he said.

“Just last week we received a call about the third-row seat of a car being tossed in the middle of the road on River Drive,” Balaji said.

County Public Works is taking on the illegal dumping on multiple fronts, from educating the community to working with law enforcement to encouraging civic involvement.

“We are working with the district attorney to prosecute dumpers, and we were successful in convicting someone,” said County Supervisor Miguel Villapudua, who represents District 1, which includes south Stockton and some of the surrounding area.

Villapudua has witnessed tires and bags of garbage being left on the side of the road. He anticipates more trash being dumped in the coming months as the weather warms up.

“The surge in dumping is usually around this time of the year because of spring cleaning, and more people tend to be active,” Balaji said.

With multiple roadways beleaguered by trash, Public Works staff hope volunteers or nonprofit groups will adopt some of the roadways that need cleanup.

“We had the basketball team at Ventura Academy take on a project, and we have held clean-up events, where 50 to 100 people show up to help,” Villapudua said.

Volunteers will be required to attend a training orientation, where they will learn roadway cleanup protocol and safety measures.

“We provide the volunteers with the tools they needed to clean the roads,” Balaji said.

Volunteers will then be able to select a roadway to clean up or adopt. They will be asked to make a two-year commitment to the region they adopt and are expected to lead a cleanup four times a year, once per quarter.

“Groups that adopt a patch of the roadway will get two signs with their name placed on both sides of the roadway,” Balaji said.

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to fill out an application, either in person or online. A county Public Works staffer will contact them with which streets are available for adoption, and send a program guide.

Once the paperwork has been finalized, Public Works staff will approve the adoption and get groups established with their project area.

For more information, call the San Joaquin County Public Works Department at 209-468-3074 or email pwrmadmin@sjgov.org.

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