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N4T Investigators: Trash along I-10 in Tucson getting ‘out of hand’

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TUCSON (KVOA) - More and more Tucsonans are telling the N4T Investigators they are frustrated by growing amounts of garbage building up along Interstate 10 in and out of Tucson. 

Longtime resident Ron Edgell said he worries it will keep visitors away. 

“It’s unsightly and you know people may snap judgement on [Tucson]," Edgell said. "Well if they take care of their interstate this way, I wonder what the roads in town look like.”

He is not alone Ken Zablotny said he believes the littering has gotten out of hand. 

“We live here in the desert because we love the scenery," Zablotny said. "But when you got trash and truck tires and a lot of midnight dumping, people come out in the middle of the night and dump their 30-pound trash bags on the side of the road then animals get to it and it spreads everywhere during a wind storm.” 

The N4T Investigators drove east out of Tucson and could see plenty of litter and piles of garbage all over the place. We then drove west out of Tucson towards Phoenix and things were just as bad. It is the responsibility of the Arizona Department of Transportation to clean up trash along State roadways and interstates.  

We spoke with ADOT spokesperson Doug Nick, who said his office had been receiving numerous complaints about trash across the state, not just Tucson. However, he said Tucson is probably one of the hardest-hit areas. 

“Our ADOT crews have picked up in 2020, 94 tons of trash in the Tucson area,” Nick said. 

Even still, it appears that is just scratching the surface. Nick said they utilize ADOT maintenance crews, volunteers and inmates to clean up trash. But ADOT crews have to focus on public safety jobs first. 

“And right now, with the wildfires occurring, they are out there to close roads, keep it safe so forth. It just adds to the effort we have to put in,” Nick said. 

The Arizona Department of Corrections has not sent out any inmate clean-up crews since March 2020, due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Nick said inmates are a major part of their clean-up routines.  

The N4T Investigators reached out to ADCRR which sent us the following statement: 

“In March of 2020, and in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, ADCRR immediately pulled back off-site work crews.  With approximately 73% of the inmates fully vaccinated, ADCRR has begun to reopen inmate work programs and visitation.  In-person visitations and work programs began to resume in June, and will continue in July as we continue a cautious phased reopening.” 

Edgell said he is not satisfied. 

“I think they are being paid by our taxes to do a job and I think they need to be doing that job and I don’t want to hear excuses about the inmates are not coming out to clean up the road," Edgell said. "They are being paid to do it so let's get it done.”  

Nick said ADOT is in need of volunteers and encourages people to help them clean things up. 

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at or call our tip line 520-955-4444.

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Chorus Nylander

Chorus Nylander is the Chief Investigative Reporter for News 4 Tucson. He is focused on giving the voiceless a voice and holding the powerful accountable.

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