Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Blight Fight: With more employees, returning director, Harrisburg increases illegal dumping prevention

Harrisburg Public Works Department employees remove trash from an illegal dump site on Atlas Street, between Maclay and Woodbine streets.

On Friday morning, sanitation workers hauled a pile of trash, including a mattress and table, from a site on Atlas Street in Uptown that they had just cleared two weeks ago.

The cycle continues at Harrisburg’s illegal dumping “hot spots,” but Public Works Director Dave West is hopeful that new efforts will make a difference in deterrence.

“We are going to catch them,” West said. “This is a focus. We want to clean up our city.”

West was previously the director of public works before retiring in October 2021. Former director Nate Spriggs took West’s position, but was fired in June. The city contacted West about returning, and he was rehired in early July to resume his position, he said.

“I’ve had a passion for the residents of the city my entire career,” West said.

Within the past month, the city has hired additional public works employees, bringing the department to a total of 63 employees. According to West, the additional workers will allow the department to increase its illegal dump site cleanups.

In the coming weeks, the city also will install 12 cameras at illegal dumping “hot spots” that they have identified around the city. According to West, the department used a few cameras previously, which proved successful. However, the new cameras will offer better quality images, with about four times as many deployed.

West is hopeful that they will deter dumping.

“My belief is that the same word of mouth that says you can dump in Harrisburg is the same word of mouth that will say you can’t dump in the city,” he said.

The city can fine people who illegally dump up to $1,000, West said.

Just in July, sanitation picked up 7.23 tons of illegally dumped trash from 20 locations. So far in 2022, they’ve collected 49.58 tons at a cost to the city of $10,622. Crews devote time to cleaning up illegally dumped trash about four days a week, West said.

Typically, dump sites are on commercial properties. Crews may find anything from couches to pianos to mattresses and wood. While Friday’s cleanup on Atlas Street took under 30 minutes, “hot spots” can be much worse, West explained. He believes that the dumping comes from both people living outside and inside the city.

Residents can call Harrisburg’s hotline at 3-1-1 to report illegal dumping.

“We have to continue to keep the city clean,” West said. “It’s a very large issue here.”


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