The city Health Department has been hit with numerous complaints from Mount Vernon residents who say they are being awakened as early as 4 a.m. by noisy trash trucks operated by a private firm.
Angry residents of the historic district have made phone calls and sent e-mail demanding that the city crack down on the trash hauler, Waste Management Inc. City law calls for trash collection in residential areas to occur between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Trash collection can take place in business, commercial and industrial areas any time as long as the site is not within 100 feet of a residential structure.
City Health Department officials say they are investigating the complaints and talking with Waste Management officials. But residents say they are still being awakened by noisy trucks. They also say fines for breaking the noise ordinance are not a deterrent because offenders can be penalized as little as $100.
Steve Gordon, who lives on East Chase Street between St. Paul and Charles streets, said he was awakened at 4:30 a.m. yesterday by clanging garbage cans and shouts from workers.
Gordon said he generally loses sleep about twice a week from the garbage trucks and the workers.
"It's not that they're trying to be quiet. They're being so loud and yelling back and forth," said Gordon, adding that the noise has been a problem since he moved to his current residence in February.
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Baltimore's health commissioner, said his department has sent out workers at 4 a.m. but has not seen violations.
Still, Sharfstein said the department is taking the complaints of the residents seriously. The Health Department has the authority to revoke a company's permit for repeated violations of the law.
Sharfstein said department officials have meetings scheduled with Waste Management officials in the coming weeks. He said Health Department workers might be dispatched again in the early morning to document noise violations.
"We're actively investigating the situation and engaging the company and the complaints," Sharfstein said. "We completely support the rules that apply here. People should not be awakened by people breaking the law. And that's why we've been working hard to resolve the situation."
Lonnie Fisher lives in the 1100 block of N. Calvert St. and said he has also been awakened by the early-morning trash pickups. Fisher has sent numerous letters to city Health Department officials, including one in which he said he was disturbed yesterday by a trash pickup about 6:15 a.m.
Fisher said he wants to start a Web site to mobilize other city residents who want to put an end to the early-morning trash pickups.
"You can hear the truck from several blocks away," Fisher said. "Then it stops and backs up, so you hear the beep. They throw trash in and then run the compactor. It takes 10 to 15 minutes. In that time, it's not unusual for the crew to be shouting to each other, laughing, talking at the top of their lungs. You would have to sleep like a log for this not to wake you up."