Dead dogs a symptom of dumping problem in Carter County, officials say

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A week after finding dead dogs at an illegal dumping site near her home, a Carter County woman is trying to find a solution to a problem that’s been plaguing Teaberry Road as long as she can remember. 

Elizabeth Woodby said Teaberry Road in Roan Mountain has always been called “the dump site,” so she’s used to seeing heaps of trash, construction waste and bits of furniture along the road.

But she said she came across a kennel last week – peering inside, she saw four dead dogs with bullet wounds.

She said it’s not the first time she’s seen animals mixed in with the furniture, garbage bags and other refuse that fills up the site. She said she’s taken in dozens of dogs over the years, including a pregnant dog that was shot in the leg and actively giving birth to five puppies. 

“This is what they call the dump site, this area right here,” Woodby said. “There’s trash and dead animals and bones all along this 8/10 of a mile. It’s ridiculous.

“You’ll see this all day long and all night long. People come up here, they dump animals, they dump trash, party. I’d just like to see it closed.” 

Woodby lives nearby and has been driving by the popular dump site multiple times a day since her gruesome discovery last week. Trash dots either side of the 8/10-mile stretch of road, including half of the skull of an animal.

Woodby examined a slope where mattresses covered in moss and the shell of a refrigerator lay next to the bones of another unknown animal. She points out a toilet that she said wasn’t there the day before. 

“It’s out of the way, not many people will see anything, there’s no cameras, the road’s rough,” Woodby said. “It’s secluded, so why not dump trash, dump animals, where they’re not going to be caught?” 

Mike Hill, a Carter County commissioner, said he’s been fighting the battle with illegal dumping grounds since he was elected to office in 2014. After spending some time on the highway commission chairman, he learned that Teaberry Road is just one of several such sites in the county. 

Woodby’s post on social media about the dead dogs ignited a virtual firestorm over the past week, but Hill said it’s a battle he’s been fighting for much longer. 

“People, for years, have decided it’s okay to go dump things there,” Hill said. “Household waste, construction debris, medical waste . . .  you name it, it’s up there.”

Cleaning the area has proved fruitless, according to landowner Mark Forbes. Forbes owns a portion of the land adjacent to Teaberry Road, and even though he’s made multiple attempts to clean it, he said the trash seems to just pile back up. 

Forbes owns a construction company, but it requires heavy machinery to clean out the mass of garbage and furniture people dump at the site, and he has to pay a fee to haul it to the landfill.

“It’s a shame that people would do something like that,” Forbes said. “It’s just really sad.”

Hill said he also believes those who dump their trash on the site believe they’re dumping it on county property, but the surrounding land is private property. 

“What’s happening up there is this material is rolling off of the right-of-way, downgrade onto private property,” he said. “Now the county does go clean up the right-of-way, but they’re not allowed to clean up private property, so private landowners are being exploited.” 

Even though dumping on private property is illegal, Hill said the challenge is catching the perpetrators. Security cameras installed in the area have been stolen, and deputies can’t monitor the area 24/7 to catch everyone who dumps trash there, Hill said. 

“The sheriff’s response, and he’s right, is that it won’t hold up in court because we can’t prove that that person, who owns that piece of metal, dumped it up on Teaberry,” he expained.

The problem, he said, is a cultural one – people have gotten used to dumping trash in the area to avoid paying for garbage services. 

The solution? Forbes said the only permanent fix he can see is to close Teaberry Road to the public.

Hill and Woodby agree. The road contains no residences, and Woodby said surrounding homes wouldn’t be blocked off. 

But, Hill said, that could push the problem somewhere else. 

“There’s this cultural belief that as long as you can get it out (of) your car, and put it on someone else that someone is going to take care of it, and that’s just not true,” Hill said. 

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