"It's awful and it's disgusting, this area has become a real blight," said Lauritzen, who owns Lauritzen Yacht Harbor at the end of Bridgehead Road. "As a business person we try to do what we can to be good citizens by reporting trash or just picking it up. But lately it seems like people are dumping everything but the kitchen sink."
And don't be surprised if you see a kitchen sink or two as you drive along some of East County's rural roads. A recent tour revealed tires, sofas, car batteries, electronics, milk cartons and household trash, among other roadside junk.
With more than 650 miles of country roads in the county, policing the area for trash is a difficult job, let alone finding and arresting the litterbugs.
Between July 2006 and June 2007 the county Public Works Department spent $425,000 picking up and disposing of waste along roadways - accounting for nearly its entire budget - and logged more than 640 reports of illegal dumping.
"The problem has become so prevalent in recent years, that where the county used to come out and pick up on an as-needed basis, now we have to wait two to four weeks to make a countywide pick up trip," said Joe Yee, the county's assistant public waste and economic director. "These guys had gotten wise to the fact that we were going to pick up their junk and haul it away as quickly as they dumped it. They can be pretty brazen."
They're so bold or careless that some will dump items with their names, phone numbers and addresses on them. While it is against the law to toss objects on the sides of the roads, catching the violators is a whole different matter.
"Sometimes people will dump stuff like phone records or things like that with their names and addresses on them, but under the penal law it is very tough to prosecute with just that," said Diedre Dingman, county solid waste program manager. "We really have to have more solid evidence."
Fines can range from $100 to $25,000, but without a witness or reliable source to confirm the act, it's virtually impossible to issue a fine. Often though, a gentle nudge can do the trick.
"Sometimes just having a sheriff's deputy knock on a door to talk to someone whose name has been found on trash can be enough," said Dingman. "It lets them know they are on to them, and that sometimes works."
So where are the hot spots? According to Yee, just about anywhere that offers a little cover, is out of the way or not patrolled on a daily basis, including private property, creeks and deserted roadways. But the problem, he said, is more than cosmetic.
"Dumping not only creates a visual mess, it creates environmental issues as well," he said. "When stuff is dumped in creeks, or materials such as paint or battery acid is allowed to just soak into the dirt, then we're looking at other problems."
As the area population continues to grow, it seems likely the problem of illegal dumping will grow as well.
"It's just sad that people think of their roads as dumping grounds," said Lauritzen. "We have a fabulous transfer station people can use. We can't ask our local government to keep picking up the tab or responsibility for this. It's a problem that affects everyone."
While most of the problem is in the unincorporated areas, there are some reports of dumping in Brentwood, Oakley and Antioch. Those cities have curbside recycling programs and public works departments that try to stay on top of things.
Annual or biannual programs are also offered in these cities where larger items will be picked up free of charge. In Brentwood's case, the city opens their transfer station to the public for a weekend or two each year.
"We have city clean-up events and that helps a lot," said Jon Carlson of the Brentwood public works department. "We don't have much of a problem here because I think people have a real pride of ownership in town. We seem to have a good system that works."
For information on recycling and free pick-up programs, visit the county Web site at www.cccounty.us, or call 1-800-750-4096. To report illegal dumping, call 1-800-663-8674.
There will be a free e-waste recycling event on Oct. 13 at Discovery Bay Elementary School. Call 1-866-335-3373 for a list of items being accepted.