As rural residents continue to deal with the consequences of last month’s heavy flooding, they are encouraged to use a program that aims to keep their communities safer and cleaner by eliminating weedy lots, clearing drainage ditches and reducing potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rodents and other pests.

Since its inception in October 2016, the Hidalgo County Nuisance Abatement Program has played a part in the cleanup of more than 700 properties located throughout the rural sections of Hidalgo County, according to J. Chris Treviño, operations administrator.

“With these recent storms that we have received, there’s been a spike in weedy lots, and all of the flooding has created unsanitary conditions,” he said. “This program was created to act as a tool for residents to report nuisance properties to the county and in turn create cleaner, safer communities.”

If a resident spots a property with a potential health or safety violation, they can call their local county precinct and request that a code enforcer notify the owner. Violations, however, must fit one of four problem areas: weedy lots, dirty drainage ditches, unsanitary conditions, and discarded material that creates a visual obstruction.

The county program is also only available to those living outside city limits.

“Most cities have this program,” Treviño said. “This is for rural Hidalgo County only.”

Weedy lots have made the bulk of complaints, with over 953 filed since 2016. But there’s certain criteria that must be met in order for the county to step in and take action, which begins with notifying owners about the problem and can escalate to commissioners placing a lien on the property if the issue is ignored.

“You can’t just go report a weedy lot in the middle of nowhere with nothing around it,” Treviño said. “It has to be over three feet tall and within 300 feet of another residence or commercial establishment.”

Dirty drainage easements have only led to 40 complaints, but residents should be especially wary as Hurricane season continues well into November.

“If a resident sees that their drainage easement is filled with trash or covered, well then the water is not going to flow properly in the event of a storm,” Treviño said. “So the time is now to call in and make that report.”

Recent floods have also created a mosquito problem that has the potential to spread mosquito-borne illnesses among residents.

“With the threat of ZIKA and some of these other hazardous conditions, we just encourage people to take advantage of this program,” Treviño said. “This program is there for them. They pay for it, and this is just another avenue for them to rid themselves of these nuisances.”