The only agency with enough money to clean up a 30-acre illegal dump site west of Jacksonville is the federal government, county lawmen agree.

That’s possible only if asbestos can be found at the site. On Thursday an inspector with the Texas Department of Health began looking over the mountains of trash strung out over the hills of Cherokee County.

“It’ll probably take at least $500,000 to clean this up, and the county doesn’t have the funds for that,” Precinct 3 Constable Eddie Lee said. “if we can find asbestos at the site, perhaps the federal government can get involved.”

Lee said the TDH showed an interest in the site after stories printed in the Jacksonville Daily Progress and broadcast by Tyler TV stations.

No arrests have been made yet, Lee said.

Thanks to an anonymous tipster, Lee discovered last week that illegal dumping has resumed on private property off FM Road 747 near the Jacksonville West Oil Field initially developed by Exxon.

First discovered three years ago, the site was thought to have been dormant, waiting for someone with the will and the funds to clean it up. Next week Lee plans to file charges against the owner of the property, who Lee says has been charging between $10 and $25 per load. A legal load dumped at a county landfill would cost between $100 and $250.

Much of the dumping has been done by roofers; piles and piles of asphalt shingles litter the once-beautiful, hilly terrain. Lee estimates that 2,500 loads of asphalt shingles have been dumped at the site. All kinds of trash has been dumped there - even abandoned cars.

The landowner(s) face at least two and possibly more counts of receiving illegal commercial trash as well as general trash, Lee said.

“We’re still studying the possible charges,” the constable said. The fines on each count began at $10,000 and carry a two-year prison term.

“But how we will get this cleaned up is anybody’s guess,” Lee said. “It’s a huge mess - maybe the biggest illegal dump site in the state.”

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