Hazelwood neighbors await bankruptcy result as trash festers at recycler

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

Mounds of garbage left behind when a Hazelwood recycling center went bankrupt in January are providing a place for rats to breed and causing a public health hazard, residents and government officials said on Thursday.

Residents say debris at Pittsburgh Recycling Services Inc. along railroad tracks at Vespucius and Dyke streets reeks of decay.

“Since they closed up, I've had a major problem with rodent infestation,” said Stanley Benovitch, 71, whose backyard faces the site. “I have two little dogs, and one of them's a hunter. She's killed three rats right here in the backyard.”

On Thursday, Benovitch found a fourth that his dog Trixie killed.

Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Health Department and the Department of Environmental Protection have joined forces to clean the property. They say they are awaiting a federal bankruptcy hearing set for Monday, during which a judge will decide whether to permit the sale of the facility to Pittsburgh-based GGMJS LLC.

Downtown attorney Kirk Burkley, who represents GGMJS, said it intends to clean up the property and continue recycling operations there.

“They have absolutely agreed to abate the situation,” he said.

But some residents want to be rid of not only the garbage, but the recycling center, which they complain generates dust, heavy truck traffic and noise.

“The community would like the whole operation to just go bye-bye,” said Jim Richter, head of Hazelwood Initiative, a neighborhood civic group.

Residents plan to demonstrate outside the center Friday morning.

“It's a danger for our children, and it's a health hazard,” said Hazel Blackman of Hazelwood, president of Action United's Hazelwood chapter, which advocates for low-income Pennsylvanians. “We want this gone, and we want it gone now.”

Pittsburgh wants the $100,000 Pittsburgh Recycling owes the city for buying recyclable materials from 2013, according to Operations Chief Guy Costa. Costa said the center, under a contract with the city, paid for aluminum, glass, plastics and newspaper collected from residents. Since it went bankrupt, he said, Pittsburgh has paid Waste Management of Neville $77,000 to take the material. The city is advertising for bids from another company and hopes to find one that will purchase recyclables, he said.

Downtown attorney Donald R. Calaiaro, who represents Pittsburgh Recycling, could not be reached.

Robert Shearer, who was appointed by the court to administer Pittsburgh Recycling's assets, can't order a cleanup because there is no cash in company accounts, according to Sharpsburg attorney Owen W. Katz, who represents Shearer.

Katz said the best resolution would be for federal Judge Carlota M. Bohm to approve the sale. Bohm was unavailable for comment.

“If we're successful, one of the things that will happen is the entity that takes over the operations down there will clean up the site,” Katz said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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