Blizzard's legacy: a trash-strewn city Pickups in alleys have resumed

January 20, 1996|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

It isn't pretty.

As weather from a monster movie swept through Baltimore yesterday -- billowing fog, weirdly warm temperatures, lightning, thunder and gusting winds -- trash left out since the Blizzard of '96 was strewn across the city.

Busted bags spilled their foul contents, empty cans of cheap spaghetti rolled down alleys, and rats feasted on a rotting repast that might hold them through spring.

In Fells Point, longtime neighborhood activist Stevens Bunker said that before this week's thaw, you could see "wonderful examples of frozen trash culture."

Deborah Tunney of Charles Village hasn't bothered to put any trash out since the storm.

"Everything's been such a topsy-turvy wasteland, I just didn't want to add to it," said the Baltimore Museum of Art employee as she walked to work yesterday from her home near 27th and St. Paul streets.

Yesterday, for the first time since more than 2 feet of snow fell last week, trash trucks began rumbling through city alleys. Before that, residents were told to put their trash out front. Some did, and some didn't. Many piled their garbage on top of snowdrifts at sidewalk corners. Other trash was buried under snow. Piles of trash sat out in the open for days.

"It's been good and bad," said Steve Conner, who lives on Yolando Avenue, near Memorial Stadium. "We dug out our alley down to the concrete, and a lot of people put their trash out back because the front was pretty bad -- it never got plowed. They took the trash we put out front, but they didn't take the time to peek and see if the alley was OK. If there was a good alley, they passed it by."

George G. Balog, the city director of public works, said his trash crews had made irregular pickups throughout the city during the blizzard and had been doing so ever since.

During the week of the storms, Jan. 7-13, the city collected about 150 tons a day, Mr. Balog said, far less than the daily average of about 1,000 tons.

"We didn't say we were picking up trash during the snow because we didn't want people putting trash in the street," said Mr. Balog, who noted that there had been 322 citizen complaints this week about piles of trash. "We've picked up about 4,000 tons this week. We normally do about 6,000 a week."

Mr. Balog termed the effort "remarkable, an assessment that some residents thought was fair.

"I've tended to be understanding," Ms. Tunney said. "This was the worst blizzard in a long time."

Trying circumstances weren't enough to get David Beaudouin to give the city the benefit of the doubt.

"There's trash strewn all over the snowdrifts; its a real mess," said Mr. Beaudouin, who lives near 28th and St. Paul streets and had not seen any trash picked up before yesterday.

"When you have an event like this, the response should be more organized. Instead, all you hear is a lot of official smoke blowing about how well they're doing."

Joseph S. Payne, a longtime sanitation laborer, was doing his best yesterday, trying to organize scattered trash bags into piles as he walked through the alleys about a half-hour ahead of a back-loader.

"Some folks have yelled at us, but we tell them we haven't been able to get down the alleys," said the 54-year-old Mr. Payne, who was wary of "big boy rats" as he collected trash bags.

"We can't scoop up trash with our hands because we'd be out here until 11 o'clock at night, and they don't give us shovels. We're doing all that we can do."

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