The mess from illegal dumping, including toxic chemicals, paint, even prescription medication, ends up in Lake Mead and contaminates our drinking supply.

So, just how big of an issue is illegal dumping in southern Nevada?  8 News now went along with the Southern Nevada Health District as they inspected sites in the desert to find out.

From paint cans to laundry detergent, shattered tiles, motor oil, even a microwave litter the desert in the southwest part of the valley near Mountain’s Edge. The area has been contaminated with at least a dozen large piles of garbage.

“So, if you look in this direction of landscape waste, household waste. We’ve got construction demolition waste, a variety of things. Pretty much a mish mash of different types of illegal dumping,” said Andy Chaney, environmental health supervisor, SNHD. 

Every year, more than 1,400 illegal dumping sites are reported to the health district, a small fraction of what’s really out in the desert.

When it rains, the garbage and all its toxins flow right into our water supply.

“Right to my left is a flood channel,” Chaney said. “During a big storm event, water comes rushing through here and carries whatever is with it down to Lake Mead, including household waste and garbage.”

One-quart of used oil has a potential to contaminate one million gallons of fresh water. Contamination that costs millions to clean up from the water and landscape.

These sites also bring out rodents, insects, disease, and other environmental toxins and often bring it all a little too close to homes.

“If you dump it, you’re going to drink it eventually. It’s going to contaminate our lake, it’s an eyesore, it’s a nuisance. It costs the taxpayers, it costs the private landowners. And in general, it’s not good for our community, it doesn’t say good things about our community. We don’t want to live in a giant trash heap,” Chaney said.

If you’re caught, it will cost you. Fines start at around $2,000.

If you already have garbage service you can take your trash, your oversized items, anything that won’t fit in your trash can to one of the transfer stations. Republic Services currently has two.