Residents stuck next to illegal dump

November 16, 2010 4:17:08 PM PST
Imagine a junkyard and illegal dumping operation in your neighbor's backyard. Now, imagine complaining about it to the county for years and it's still there.

That's the reality for Wayne Kennedy who lives on Wake County's Olde South Road north of Lake Wheeler.

"They've got dump trucks coming in and out, off-loading on-loading," he said. "It's hard to explain how aggravating it is … nobody out here is supposed to run a business.

Residents in the neighborhood say the problem has gone on for nearly a decade. Kennedy says his complaints to the county go back three years.

"I've made numerous amounts of telephone calls, emails, to no avail. Nothing's been done," he said.

Keith Robinson says he's made similar complaints for nearly ten years.

"I just want to know what is out there," he said. "There's just all kinds of junk out there, no telling what's out there."

Both Robinson and Kennedy say dump trucks gas up at an off-road fuel tank at the property in the morning and then leave for the day. They occasionally return with loads of junk. Old tires are littered around the property. Huge piles of rock spring from nowhere. Enormous metal and concrete braces edge the lot, and even old flat-bed trucks are sitting around.

Then, there are the barrels. Barrels of what, Robinson and Kennedy have no idea, but runoff from the three and half acre land channels directly into Robinson's backyard.

"The water doesn't bother me as much as what's in the water," said Robinson.

"We all live off of well water. We don't have city water," said Kennedy.

"It's more than just muddy water, there's something, you know. There's something in it," said Robinson.

The men say they feel like nobody at the county level cares.

"The only thing I can see is it's basically just not a big worry for anybody but us," Kennedy offered.

But county officials say they've been watching the property for years.

"The individual that owns the property is using the property as a staging area for his hauling and landscape business," said Geoffrey Pearson with Wake County Code Enforcement.

Pearson says it's his job to make sure the county is doing its job, so why haven't they put a stop to it?

It turns out they have - three times before. The owner was cited in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

But this time, Pearson says they can't find the owner. He's had deputies try to serve the owner with papers a multiple addresses, but he was nowhere to be found.

We tried many of the same addresses, knocked on the same doors, and like the county, had no luck finding the owner until he tracked us down in Raleigh.

Ronald Proulx wanted to talk, but not on camera.

He said the broken down vehicles aren't his, that the dumping has been done mostly by others, and that while allows dump trucks to be on the property, he hasn't been there for months.

But none of it makes a difference to the law. It's all illegal.

To that, Prouxl had no good answers, and for his neighbors, that's what it's all about.

"I just want someone to check it out, the proper authorities to come, and if he's not allowed to be dumping there, to stop," said Robinson.

Pearson says the way to stop it is to get the courts involved. So far, Proulx has gotten only warnings and fines.

But if a judge tells him to stop and he doesn't, he could be found in contempt of court and that can carry jail time.

That's the ultimate carrot.

But before that can happen, the judge needs to know Proulx has gotten the notice.

"Until we can actually give this individual a notice that says he received it on this particular date, we'll have to continue our attempts to get him served," said Pearson.

Ten years later though, some here have lost faith - not just in their neighbor, but in the system itself.

"We've gotten to the point where, as soon as the market picks up, we're going to sell our house and leave," said Robinson.

Officials say they've visited the site and found no apparent hazardous waste. But, no soil or water testing

Proulx told us he wants to work with his neighbors and the county - saying he would write an email to the state asking for soil and groundwater testing.

When we told the county we'd found Proulx, they were stunned, and said they'd do their best to find him themselves.

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