Cleanup starts at illegal dump site in Planeview

Mattresses, toilets, computers, sinks, furniture, construction debris — Janet Johnson said she's seen everything imaginable left as trash in a Planeview neighborhood lot.

The dump site, stretching for about a quarter mile between South Rutan and South Clifton, runs between two sections of houses. Efforts to clear the lot started Thursday, funded by a Kansas Department of Health and Environment grant.

Johnson, neighborhood assistant for Wichita's District 3, said trash has collected in the Planeview lot since she took her position four years ago.

"Once you get a pile started, then it just grows exponentially," she said.

The grant program, which was established in 2001, provides funding to clear illegal dumps. The state pays 75 percent of the costs, and the city pays the rest. The estimated cost for the Planeview project is $6,000.

Bob Medina, environmental scientist with KDHE, said the Illegal Dump Clean Up Program is effective because sites usually do not need clearing again, partially due to the attitudes of neighborhood residents.

"The neighborhood takes a more proactive approach to their neighborhood, and they're more willing to watch over their property," Medina said.

The cleanup is expected to take three to four days, and includes crews clearing trash and overgrowth and mowing the lot. The city is looking into purchasing fences to keep people from driving into the lot in the future and dumping trash.

Besides making the area look nicer, Becky Lewis, Wichita's environmental compliance manager, said the cleanup would reduce the number of rodents and mosquitoes in the area, as well as the criminal activity that dump sites tend to attract. Safety would also improve for children who use the lot as a shortcut to school and the park, Lewis said.

Planeview was built during World War II as temporary housing for aircraft workers. This neighborhood is not the only one with illegal dumping problems, said Jim Skelton, the City Council member for District 3. People frequently leave bulk waste items in the Hilltop neighborhood and alleys in south-central Wichita, he said.

Lewis said the cleanup would improve living conditions in Planeview.

"If your quality of life is improved, then you maybe take a little bit more pride in the area" that you live in, she said.