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Cleanup on the horizon for rat-infested Hazelwood recycling center

| Monday, May 5, 2014, 12:58 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Piles of trash at the Pittsburgh Recycling Services facility in Hazelwood on May 1, 2014.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Piles of trash at the Pittsburgh Recycling Services facility in Hazelwood on May 1, 2014.

A company vowed on Monday to clean up the rat-infested site of bankrupt Pittsburgh Recycling Services soon after it closes on its purchase of the Hazelwood facility.

A federal judge approved the sale to GGMJS LLC, a Pittsburgh-based holding company, which said it intends to close this week on the $1.35 million purchase of the property at 50 Vespucius St. It will begin cleanup within five days of the sale, said its attorney, Kirk Burkley.

“I think it's a good resolution for everybody,” Burkley said after a three-hour hearing.

Residents and public officials complained last week that mountains of garbage Pittsburgh Recycling left behind when it went bankrupt in January presented a public health risk. The company, which owes more than $4.4 million, was forced by creditors into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Neighbors said they noticed an influx of rats around their properties after the center closed.

Hazel Blackman of Hazelwood, president of Action United's Hazelwood chapter, which advocates for low-income Pennsylvanians, said a cleanup won't happen soon enough. Action United organized a protest outside the shuttered company on Friday to draw attention.

“We wanted it done yesterday,” Blackman said. “I guess we'll have to wait, but something has to be done.”

Pittsburgh Recycling owes more than 100 creditors, including 29 employees owed a total of $60,630 in pay, according to online court documents. Its largest debt is $2.9 million to Cole Taylor Bank of Rosemont, Ill. Pennsylvania Department of State corporation records list Paul Lombardi as Pittsburgh Recycling's president and Michael Calandrillo as its treasurer.

The center owes Pittsburgh about $100,000 for recyclable materials the company bought in 2013. The company, under a contract with the city, paid for aluminum, glass, plastics and newspaper the city collected from residents. Since the bankrupty, Pittsburgh has paid Waste Management of Neville Island $77,000 to take the material.

GGMJS agreed to evaluate 1,700 one-ton bales of recyclable material that Pittsburgh Recycling stored in a warehouse at 97 49th St. in Lawrenceville to see whether they have sale value. The company will sell the stuff if it can, Burkley said in court.

He said the company would like to resume recycling operations in Hazelwood at some point. However, Waste Management likely will object, according to its attorneys.

Greenstar Recycling, a subsidiary of Waste Management, claims it has an agreement with Greenstar's former owner that prohibits him from operating a competing recycling center in the area. Gabe Hudock, the former owner, is a principal in GGMJS, Burkley said.

Hazelwood residents, who complained of dirt and noise from the operation, said they would be happy if it stays closed.

“If they do go back into business, I hope the city or the county puts something in place so they maintain it in a fashion that we don't have this same problem,” said Stanley Benovitch, 71, whose home borders the center.

Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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