Sunday, September 19, 2010

St. Louis tackles illegal trash dumping


Sgt. Ron Hasty was cruising city streets, looking for trash.

He pulled up to a home on Union Boulevard, slowed and marveled. A day earlier, the yard had been full of broken-down cars, busted furniture, a refrigerator, a doghouse and stacks of man-size tree trunk rounds. Hasty had threatened the residents with jail time if they didn't clean it up.

Not 24 hours later, green grass filled the space. Hasty rolled down his window and shouted to a man on the porch. "Outstanding!" he said. "Outstanding!"

This clean yard illustrates an unforseen side effect of the city's new residential trash collection program.

While many St. Louis residents are focused on the blue recycling bins coming to their alleys soon, or the $11-per-month bills just starting to hit mailboxes, some aldermen and leaders have quietly insisted the city also reinvigorate an old fight against illegal dumping.

The problem is acute — and disgusting. In some neighborhoods, block after block of alleys are lined with couches, mattresses, head-high piles of yard waste, and what investigators think must be the contents of entire basements — a mix of food, trash and clothing left to rot and stink behind abandoned homes.

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