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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Getting There: Illegal dumping closes West Plains county road indefinitely – ‘It’s horrible, and it stinks to high heavens’

Spokane County Public Works planners have blocked off the turnoff from Hayford Road onto Euclid Road and will ask county commissioners that this stretch of Euclid be closed indefinitely to prevent dumping on this little-used stretch of rural roadway.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Defunct refrigerators, piles of old tires, construction materials and bags brimming with rotten food. You name it, and Debbie Child has probably seen it thrown out of the back of a truck near her home on the West Plains.

“It’s horrible, and it stinks to high heavens, my Lord,” Child said. “Within the last year, it was literally like the landfill was on this road; it wasn’t just on the sides of the road, it was all the way down the middle of the road.”

Illegal dumping on West Euclid Road a couple miles northeast of Airway Heights has become so frequent and hazardous to the health of nearby residents that Spokane County Public Works closed a section of the dirt road since mid-December.

They don’t plan to reopen it anytime soon, either. The department plans to ask Spokane County commissioners to make the closure, which spans from North Hayford Road to just before North Old Trails Road, last indefinitely.

“People are loading up a pickup truck with all kinds of garbage and trash and broken appliances and old tires and old furniture,” said Public Works spokesperson Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter. “They don’t want to pay to take it to a transfer station, so they dump it alongside this dirt road that is not heavily traveled, by any means.”

Euclid is a long, winding road that stretches from West Trails Road to the east to Deep Creek to the west. The problem section is about a mile long, with a single business on the strip and two houses. The closure, however, only blocks a portion of the road where there are no driveways, and the business and residents continue to have access.

Child has lived on that strip of Euclid for 17 years with her husband, Paul Child, two of their grandchildren and an elderly aunt. Child said illegal dumping has become more than just a nuisance in recent years.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Child started noticing trash piling up near her home. It was slow at first, with only a few piles of lawn debris or the occasional old appliance. She would see trucks come by, empty their beds and ride off into the distance.

It escalated quickly, she said. The piles started to grow and grow, and there seemed to be a steady stream of trucks and cars coming under the cover of night to unload their unwanted garbage.

“It looked like the landfill; I am not kidding,” Child said. “As soon as the county would come and clean it up and everything, the very next day, there would be three or four truckloads, and I mean full truckloads, out there.”

Child said she has tried just about everything to address the issue. She’s called the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and shared videos and photos of people she’s caught in the act. She’s called the county to get assistance cleaning up the road. She and her husband have even tried talking to the culprits, but they either speed off or stare apathetically while they continue to trash the roadway.

Wheatley-Billeter said county road crews have cleaned the area several times to no avail. The trash keeps coming.

Mike Yates, who works for the industrial cleaning company Big Sky Industrial that sits just down the road from Child’s house, said the company owner often has them clean up their own neighborhood.

“In the summertime, it’s much worse,” Yates said, “When I come to work at 7 in the morning, it’s like ‘Oh, there’s a new pile. Oh, there’s another one.’ We clean up a lot of it. The owner, it costs him, but he’d rather pay for us to do it than look at it.”

The closure is intended to get habitual dumpers that frequent Euclid Road to break their habit, Wheatley-Billeter said. There are hot spots for illegal dumpers all around the county, mostly in remote areas, but Public Works has rarely closed a road to address a problem area. Since the strip of Euclid only has a few residences and a single business, the circumstances allowed the county to block the road with concrete dividers and mounds of dirt.

“It’s one of those things that you just shake your head at,” she said. “To a certain extent, it’s understandable that people can’t afford tipping fees. But really? You couldn’t find a way to recycle or dispose of it properly?”

Child said illegal dumping is not the only issue she’s had with visitors to her little slice of the West Plains.

She said she often sees parked cars up and down the dirt road with people inside using drugs or partaking in sexual acts. She has had to call an ambulance more than a few times for someone in need of medical attention after an overdose.

“It just got really bad over the last few years,” Child said. “At least until they closed it, thank God. Now it’s back to the way it was when we first moved out here.”

Child said people also abandon pets along the road. She has seven dogs, most of which she found abandoned near her home. She has taken others to animal shelters. Child found a litter of six kittens that had significant injuries on their feet. She took them to an animal shelter, except for one she saved for her granddaughter.

“A year and a half ago, we had a knock on the door around 10:30 at night, and it was an elderly couple asking us to take in a dog they had just rescued from some coyotes nearby,” Child said. “Not even two weeks later, here comes six new puppies. One of the puppies looked just like the mother, and, well, I guess we have another dog now. Her name’s Gracie.”

Before the closure, Child said she often worried for her safety, or what effect living in the area might be having on her grandchildren. She said those fears are gone now and she breathes a little easier, also due in part to the lack of rotting trash.

“The traffic has stopped, and it’s been so nice and peaceful now,” Child said. “I hope they never open it again.”