Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Volunteer's Mission Is to Put Clear End to Local Dump Sites

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Volunteer's Mission Is to Put Clear End to Local Dump Sites

Article excerpt

A colleague got a call last week from a Homewood resident who had been trying to get the city to clean an abandoned lot beside the home of a relative.

The caller, Herbert Austin, said the property had been trashed for years and his pleas to the city had gone unanswered.

I met him at 7017 Susquehanna St. on Friday and my jaw dropped. It wasn't just a heavily littered lot. It was 2,600 square feet piled with broken furniture, tires, carpeting, demolition debris, wood scraps, hundreds of bags stuffed with garbage and thousands of cans, bottles and cartons.

The property, according to the county's website, is owned by the East End Federal Savings and Loan Bank, an entity that hasn't existed for many years. Neighbors said the house on the land was demolished decades ago.

On my Walkabout blog Friday, I posted a photo of the site and wrote about its abuse.

John Jennings, acting chief of the Bureau of Building Inspections, told me the city is not responsible for the lot and has no interest in acquiring it. The Redd-Up team is too busy trying to care for properties the city already owns, he said, adding that the Susquehanna site "has been referred once and will be again" to the Redd-Up crew to get to it when possible.

But it's already being tackled.

A volunteer for Allegheny CleanWays sent a link to my blog to Joe Divack, the nonprofit group's coordinator of dump site clean-ups.

In an email to me Sunday, Mr. Divack wrote, "I found it so appalling that I started to clean it today. Debris pile is about two dumptruck loads so far, with more to come."

Wearing heavy gloves, Mr. Divack was clutching a big chunk of damp carpeting when I met him there Monday morning. He had piled all the big debris I had seen Friday for a pending haul-away, filled the back of his pickup truck and was working on the under-layer of litter that had long ago established the property's role -- to begin taking abuse and to sanction more.

Mr. Divack, a retired behavioral therapist, cleaned up his first lot three years ago after tiring of seeing the trash near a Sheraden cemetery where he and his wife have relatives buried.

"I just decided one day to clean it up," he told me in a 2010 interview. …

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