It was as if a tornado had swept through, hurling the contents of entire homes into the ground.
But it was not a force of nature that left refrigerators, televisions, mattresses, clothes and furniture in a Miranda Canyon arroyo.
The area is just one of what county officials say are several illegal dump sites around the Taos area.
On Saturday (June 13), dozens of volunteers descended on it as well as seven other sites across the county for the ninth annual Taos River and Land Clean-Up.
Joined by staff from the Taos County Solid Waste Dept. manning a front loader and backhoe, volunteers and a crew from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps removed approximately 28 tons of waste from the site in Miranda Canyon.
“The reason we chose this site is because of the watershed,” said Lorenzo Gutierrez, a solid waste department code enforcement official.
What ends up in the arroyo ends up in our water, he added. And that should be cause for concern, according to Gutierrez, as household appliances leak heavy metals into the soil and the toxic ashes of burn barrels are washed down into the Río Pueblo de Taos watershed with each late afternoon storm.
The Miranda Canyon dump site was by far the largest site crews sought to clean up during the annual event but other locations produced impressive hauls.
The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Mora crew plucked 850 miniature liquor bottles from the area of U.S. Hill in the course of an hour-and-a-half.
Thousands more bottles were collected at other sites across the county, where a total of another one-and-a-half tons of trash were scooped up Saturday.
Taos County Solid Waste Dept. Director Edward Martinez said the focus now is to make illegal dump sites less accessible.
Martinez said he dug a ditch around the Miranda Canyon dump site when he left and would like to install boulders blocking vehicle traffic into the area.
“It has been a problem for years,” he said. “Our main concern was just to get it cleaned up.”
Martinez claimed frequent patrols by solid waste department staff, signage and road obstructions have reduced traffic to what he characterized as having once been a more popular dump site at the end of County Road 110.
Similar tactics could deter litterers at other locations, he indicated.
Other long-term approaches include a languishing proposal to ban miniature liquor bottles. Volunteers tallied the number of empty “shooters” they collected to bolster the argument for a countywide ban on the sale of two-ounce liquor bottles.
Whatever the proposed ordinance’s fate, though, organizers counted this year’s cleanup as a success.
The event was supported by 21 organizations including Amigos Bravos, Because Water Matters, Taos County Waste Department, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, AmeriCorps, St. James Episcopal Church, U.S. Forest Service Carson District, BLM-Taos Office, Taos County Sheriff’s Department, Centinel Bank of Taos, Taos Land Trust, Rio Grande Ace Hardware, Randall Lumber, Sierra Club, Holy Cross Hospital, Los Rios River Runners and The Beautiful Midden Project.