A pile of asbestos was among a one-tonne mountain of rubbish dumped just feet from a Hartlepool beach.
Uncertainty as to who owns the strip of land leading to Middleton beach off Ferry Road is contributing to the problem of flytipping in the area, say local conservationists.
An emergency clean up operation was organised by the local branch of the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group.
A small team of volunteers bagged up an estimated one-tonne of rubbish which was later removed.
Both Hartlepool Borough Council and Hartlepool port managers PD Ports say the land in question does not belong to them.
But the council says it is committed to tackling the problem and is working closely with PD Ports.
Craig Boumphrey, who organised the emergency clean up, said: “We collected about 35 sacks of rubbish along with a fridge freezer, shredded tyres, furniture, soiled nappies and old clothes.
“The area looks like it’s a regular fly tipping spot and upon arrival we noticed what a disgrace and danger the area was.
“We found a large amount of asbestos dumped that we had to work around.
“In high winds this would have blown into the sea causing a great danger to wildlife.”
A council spokesman said: “Our checks have revealed that the beach slip road where the majority of the fly-tipping has occurred is unregistered land and, as such, its ownership is unclear.
“Nevertheless, we are committed to tackling the problem and we will continue to work closely with PD Ports.”
Craig believes the confusion is contributing to the problem at the spot.
He added: “If we had a distinguished owner we could work together to improve the area, thus protecting the beach and the ocean.”
Councillor Shane Moore, who represents the Headland and Harbour ward where the land is, said it was a frustrating problem.
He said: “We have been in talks with PD Ports over the flytipping around there and we have come to an agreement for the council and PD Ports to work together to try to make sure this doesn’t continue.
“From a council involvement we are going to try to do our best to work on the enforcement side of things and try to catch the people who are regularly dumping there.
“It is frustrating as when residents call it in we can’t go in and clear it because we don’t own the land.”