Te Araroa locals believed it was only a matter of time before rubbish would spill out of an old dumpsite near the Awatere River on the East Cape.
Heavy rain burst the bank of the dump site on Monday, and rubbish spilled into the river.
The Gisborne District Council has covered the exposed areas and a cleanup is underway.
But community leaders say there have been ongoing concerns for decades, and something should have been done sooner.
Tina Ngata has been among those leading the clean up and spoke to Māni Dunlop.