NAUGATUCK — Rich Tavares was driving in the Naugatuck State Forest Wednesday when he noticed someone had dumped trash from the back of a pickup truck onto the side of the road.
Tavares, a Naugatuck firefighter who organized a cleanup of the forest recently, was upset at first, but his emotions turned to sheer anger when he saw a truck rented from Home Depot stop near Hunters Mountain Road and throw even more garbage over the side.
“I looked into a bag and saw a ton of prescription pill bottles, so I knew I had to call the police,” he said.
Tavares tried to get a license plate number but the truck sped away, he said. A Naugatuck police officer arrived within minutes and started looking through the debris for clues.
On Thursday morning, Department of Public Works crews noticed even more trash, including leather couches, a living room table and a box spring on Hill Road in Middlebury, next to the Naugatuck border.
Police learned later in the day that someone had cleaned out a house, and rather than bringing the material to a dump, they decided to throw it in the woods. All told, about three pickup truck loads worth of trash was dumped in Naugatuck and Middlebury.
As of Thursday, police from Naugatuck, Middlebury and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were still investigating.
Naugatuck Street Department Superintendent Bob Roland said he was instructed by the Naugatuck Police Department to not have his crew pick up the debris.
“I was told they were going to try to get the individuals to clean it and fine them, as well,” he said. “So I’m going to give them an opportunity to do that.”
Roland said illegal dumping has been pretty consistent in the past few years. He said it typically happens in the Naugatuck Industrial Park and on Elm Street in Naugatuck.
“The police have done a good job and they oftentimes are able to identify people by their mail or something else,” he said. “It hasn’t gotten any worse in recent years, but it has been consistent.”
He said the dumping is extremely frustrating.
“I take pride in public works, and so does our crew,” he said. “And we take pride in Naugatuck, so we don’t want to see this. Oftentimes we have to take people from important jobs to clean up the junk or the garbage.”