Standing at a podium placed in front of a pile of old carpeting and stuffed garbage bags strewn on the edge of a wooded area in Larimer, Mayor Bill Peduto on Monday announced a new plan to fight illegal dumping in Pittsburgh.
The site is one of more than 800 the city has identified where contractors and other violators have dumped debris without permission. The new plan is called Goals on Litter and Dumping, or GOLD, and it’s meant to create consequences for dumpers.
The city will employ hidden surveillance cameras at a rotating array of those sites — eight cameras now, and another half-dozen to come — and trace dumpers via their license plates. Under forthcoming proposed changes to the city code, the dumpers will be required to make restitution to the community.
“Eight-hundred-plus sites just like this throughout the city of Pittsburgh. Over 800 places where contractors and others go and use our city as a junkyard,” Peduto said at the press conference. “Just a message to those folks: We will find you. We will have cameras up at those locations. We will move the cameras. We will get your plate numbers. And we will have you come back to that neighborhood and clean the neighborhood.”
The plan was developed with input from community groups and technical assistance from the city’s own Clean Pittsburgh Commission and nonprofit organizations, including Allegheny CleanWays and Pennsylvania Resources Council. It was based partly on a study of litter and dumping problems in nine Pennsylvania cities, published in January 2020 by consultant Burns & McDonnell. The study found that Pennsylvania spends $68 million a year dealing with litter and illegal dumping, said Christopher Mitchell, the city’s anti-litter coordinator.
The GOLD plan is in its earliest stages. According to the study, Pittsburgh — based on its population — should have eight full-time staffers enforcing anti-litter and –dumping laws; it has just one, Mitchell said. The Peduto administration plans to ask City Council to approve two new such hires, he said.
Peduto said he also plans to seek the necessary updates to the city code to better define litter and dumping violations and to make community restitution part of the penalty for violators.
In Larimer, community representatives said the moves were welcome.
“What happens is, people find desolate areas in communities like Larimer, and there’s not a lot of housing down here, so there’s an opportunity for people to dump and go unnoticed under the cloak of darkness, as well as in broad daylight,” said Malik Morris, manager of community engagement for the Larimer Consensus Group. He spoke at the site of the press conference, on the north end of Larimer, near a thickly wooded hillside overlooking Washington Boulevard. “You clean it up, they dump again.”
Donna Jackson, who chairs the group’s board, said she personally had phoned the head of a contracting company on one of several new residential construction projects in the neighborhood to tell him a crew of his had dumped the remains of a concrete sidewalk at that very site. She said the contractor cleaned up the mess the next day but the problem remains.
“This is a good thing that they’re working on this, to change this, because we’re trying to develop and bring this community back,” she said. “As we revitalize this community, it’s important this kind of stuff stops.”