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Nonprofit finds 529 illegal dump sites in Pittsburgh, 250 more than 2009

| Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 10:33 p.m.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Joe Divack (right) and John Erickson from Allegheny Cleanways work to clear debris from an illegal dump site along Overbeck Street in Spring Hill on Monday, July 6, 2015.The Clean Pittsburgh Commission, along with the mayor’s office, will host a roundtable discussion addressing the problem of littering in the city. Allegheny Cleanways will be a part of that.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Joe Divack from Allegheny Cleanways hauls can filled with trash from an illegal dump site to his dump truck parked along Overbeck Street in Spring Hill Monday July 6, 2015.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Volunteer John Erickson from Allegheny Cleanways tries to untangle a rusted flexible gasline from a uprooted shrub while working to clear debris from an illegal dump site along Overbeck Street in Spring Hill Monday July 6, 2015.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Joe Divack (right) and John Erickson from Allegheny Cleanways work to clear debris from an illegal dump site under a high wall that is Overbeck Street in Spring Hill Monday July 6, 2015. They had to cut back vegetation just to get a workable area to haul the garbage out.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Volunteer John Erickson from Allegheny Cleanways treads lightly along a high cement wall that supports Overbeck Street work to clear debris from an illegal dump site along the street in Spring Hill Monday July 6, 2015.

A wooden gate on the left side of Ralonda Oakes' home in Hazelwood obstructs her view of a trash-strewn site at the end of the street.

“It bothers me, because people think it's a dump site. It's not,” she said. “Trash blows up the hill, down the hill. It's just everywhere.”

Oakes is not the only one who recognizes a problem.

Stakeholders who want a concerted effort to curtail littering and illegal waste dumping in Pittsburgh will discuss potential solutions Thursday during a televised roundtable hosted by the Mayor's Office and the Clean Pittsburgh Commission.

Nonprofit Allegheny Cleanways clears illegal dump sites throughout the city. Its anti-illegal dumping program has had some success in Hazelwood, having cleared about 48 illegal dump sites since January, said executive director Myrna Newman.

Dump sites often contain years of accumulated tires, litter and debris.

“We have no trouble finding two or three thousand pounds, every day, 12 months a year. There's something wrong with this picture,” said Joe Divack, assistant executive director of Allegheny Cleanways. With volunteer help, Divack was able to clear the littered site next to Oakes' home, but he said the program has its limitations.

In assessing Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Allegheny Cleanways identifies 529 illegal dump sites in the city, 250 more than in 2009, Newman said.

The Pennsylvania Resources Council, the city's Department of Public Works, Allegheny Cleanways and Duquesne University professor Erik Garrett, who will explain motivations to litter and dump illegally, are invited to the roundtable, among others.

“It's very evident that no one has found a reasonable solution (to littering) that's truly effective,” said Justin Stockdale, regional director of Pennsylvania Resources Council, a nonprofit that works to influence people's behavior toward the environment. “You have a lot of groups trying to deal with the issue of litter, but we are all doing it very discretely. We are not collaborating as much as we could.”

Stockdale, Divack and Boris Weinstein, former chairman of the Clean Pittsburgh Commission, agreed a focused effort that addresses multiple causes of waste accumulation is necessary.

Weinstein, who organized many of the city's Redd Up community cleanups, criticized how Mayor Bill Peduto and past mayoral administrations have handled litter as an issue: “It has not been a priority with the city, and not just with (Peduto). I feel the problem facing us in the city goes beyond everyday littering and illegal dumping.”

Others contend the mayor's office is showing genuine concern about the problem by hosting the roundtable.

Grant Ervin, Peduto's sustainability manager and chief resilience officer, said a climate action plan under development will partially focus on clearing waste.

“It's definitely one of the things we point toward,” he said.

Katishi Maake is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7841 or kmaake@tribweb.com.

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