Keep Philadelphia Beautiful has recently completed a survey designed to show the impact of illegal dumping in the city's lots, allies and abandoned buildings.
“What we found with the survey, which itself was a snapshot of what was going on in Philadelphia and our services are so much ahead of the game that between the neighbors, the community and the city, a lot of the sites have been worked on and cleaned,” said Phoebe Coles of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful.
“The bad news is that some of the things that are in the dump sites are things that we have access to throw away in regular collections. We have a lot of recyclables in our dump sites, a lot of household trash and some appliances and mattresses.”
One of the biggest contributors to illegal dumping were small, private contractors.
“One of the higher categories were the waste of demolition and construction and what we do know is, a lot of times, the small guys cleaning up or renovating a house and who are not going to take the opportunity to go a pay the fee to dump it,” Coles said. “Unfortunately we have to crack down, not only on those people who are getting paid to throw things away in the proper manner, but also we have to really crack down on our citizens with the understanding that we have municipal collections.”
Although Philadelphia has a reputation as a dirty city, earning it the nickname “filthadelphia” in some places, Coles noted residents are really quick to respond to illegal dumping.
“One of the things that I spoke about during a presentation the other day was about how citizens actively try to remediate [clean up] sites,” she said.
Coles stated she not only get calls from residents requesting the city to clean up dump sites, but also calls from citizens requesting clean-up supplies so that they could clean up the sites themselves.
“It becomes a neighborhood process which is a good thing because some of the neighbors could kind of get behind all of the things that they have to deal with in the neighborhood,” she said.
How did Southwest Philadelphia fare in the survey? Well, while there were such sites scattered throughout the city, it seems that a significant number of these dump sites seem to be located in North Philadelphia. For the study, dump sites considered for the survey were those with a half a ton or more of debris.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has personally taken efforts to clean up the Second District in Southwest Philadelphia and noted the survey will help pinpoint where the problems are so that he could better help to alleviate them.
He credits Phoebe Coles and Keep Philadelphia Beautiful with creating a document that would help clean the city.
As part of his efforts to keep the city's streets clean, Johnson created the 2nd Council District Clean Streets and Blight Task Force.
“I established it after having hearings in city council on illegal dumping and littering,” he said. “My goal is to make the Second Council District, which consists of South and Southwest Philadelphia, the cleanest district in the city.”