Pima County residents can be held responsible for trash that ends up in the desert, even if they hired someone else to take it to a landfill.

The county investigates and issues citations for more than 300 illegal dumping instances a year, said Beth Gorman, program manager for Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.

When trash can be identified, often through a name or address found in the trash, the owner is responsible for cleaning it up, she said. About 10 percent of the time, after a county illegal dumping citation, a resident calls the Department of Environmental Quality to say they did not dump the trash, and that they hired someone to take it to a landfill.

It often goes like this: “I didn’t dump it. I hired somebody and they said that they took it to the landfill but I paid them cash and I don’t remember who they were, they were my neighbor’s friends or things like that,” Gorman said.

The county is concerned about illegal dumping because it can have negative affects on the environment. It can contaminate ground water quality, create a breeding site for mosquitos, and pose a danger to hikers and wildlife, she said.

Unless there's proof that a resident hired someone to take the trash to the landfill, Gorman said, the owner remains responsible.

"Whoever has hired that person, and it’s their trash, they’re responsible for cleaning it up if they can’t locate that individual," she said.

That's why the department advised getting a receipt, or at the very least, writing a check to get a written record of the transaction. Another option, Gorman said, is to pay half of the fee up front, and the rest of the fee to the hauler after they show a receipt from the landfill.