Penn Hills is going to have the most aggressive anti-dumping campaign in Allegheny County, the municipality’s manager said during a news conference Wednesday.
Penn Hills Manager Scott Andrejchak was joined by Councilman John Petrucci, Chief of Police Howard Burton and other staff to outline a new plan aimed at stopping dumping within the municipality.
The conference followed the announcement that three men – Ricky Stallworth Jr. of Wilkinsburg, Aaron Evans of Pittsburgh, and Michael Smith of Carnegie – were caught on video dumping debris from a box truck and now face civil charges, a $2,000 fine and clean-up costs.
As part of the conference, officials showed footage that led to the charges of those caught. Some videos showed people who have yet to be identified, and Andrejchak said there are hours of additional footage.
Petrucci said the municipality needs the community’s help in identifying others and to find other dump sites.
“It’s disgusting to use Penn Hills as a dump site,” Petrucci said.
“People are angry, and I am too,” said Andrejchak. “Stop doing it because we’re not going to until the dumping stops.”
Andrejchak called the act of illegal dumping an “environmental crime” that lowers the community’s appeal, decreases property values, invites more litter, poses a fire risk, pollutes waterways and lowers human spirit.
He also said illegal dumping, which he defined as “big litter,” comes at a cost to taxpayers – anywhere from $325,000 to $500,000 annually. The figures include paid municipal employees’ time spent cleaning up.
In the past, Andrejchak said the municipality has taken a “defeatist attitude” to address the problem by placing dumpsters at sites commonly used for illegal dumping. Offenders didn’t use the dumpsters, which led to public works employees collecting the waste and transporting it.
Penn Hills’ contract with Republic Services, the municipality’s garbage removal company, has allowed five free dumpsters a year – but Public Works Superintendent Scott Shepard has said Penn Hills uses anywhere from 10 to 20 per year. Each additional dumpster costs $500.
Andrejchak said the municipality has moved forward by cleaning up Ross Street Park and placing cameras at common dump sites, along with signs that warn cameras are in use and those who are caught are fined $2,000.
“We’re not hiding it this time,” he said, declining to say where cameras are located.
John McCafferty, code enforcement director, has said the municipality deployed eight surveillance cameras.
Chief Burton characterized the strategy as a “good game plan” and that the extra work load on detectives is doable.
“We have to do it,” he said. “Maybe the word will get out that, ‘hey don’t go to Penn Hills to dump trash.”
Hopefully they get the message. Not only for beechford. 8 or 9 other sites working on. Maybe word is gonna get out hey don’t g ot open hills to dump trash
A 2017 Allegheny Clean Ways study found 43 illegal dump sites located within Penn Hills. When asked about that number, Andrejchak said he question’s the report’s validity.
“That sounds high. I think it’s about a quarter of that,” he said.
One resident acknowledged the problem of illegal dumping but questioned whether Penn Hills’ new strategy will work.
Ruth, who declined to give her last name because she said she fears retaliation, lives near several dump sites and is two doors down from a site where many tires have been dumped.
“I think it’s going to be hard to indict these guys. And what if they don’t pay? Then what?” Ruth said.
She addressed the illegal dumpers: “Stay out of our neighborhood. And pay to dump your stuff.”