Community organizers in Dutchtown are struggling to stop people from outside of the south St. Louis neighborhood from dumping construction debris, mattresses and excessive amounts of trash in alleys and vacant lots.
The Dutchtown South Community Corporation has been working to reduce illegal dumping in the neighborhood through an Environmental Protection Agency-funded campaign since 2016. There’s also been an effort to address illegal dumping city wide. Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office launched its Clean Up St. Louis initiative last year to improve trash-collection services.
Despite these efforts, the number of illegal-dumping complaints from Dutchtown residents to the Citizens’ Service Bureau have risen by more than 20% since 2015.
“There could be a number of reasons for why the number of complaints go up, but if you use it as a blunt proxy for the extent of the problem, the problem is certainly not getting better in Dutchtown; if anything, it’s getting worse,” said Ken Miller, a researcher at the Washington University Interdisciplinary Environmental Law Clinic.
For several years, residents in Dutchtown have reported more illegal dumping than most city neighborhoods. A lack of working surveillance cameras and eyewitnesses has made investigating these cases difficult in recent years. However, it’s widely known among residents and city officials that much of the pollution comes from outside of the neighborhoods. Mayor Krewson’s office did not provide a comment for this story.
The penalty for illegal dumping is $500 and 800 hours of community services. That’s not a strong enough penalty, said Miysha Johnson, who works on the neighborhood group’s So Fresh, So Clean, So Creative Southside St. Louis project, which aims to reduce illegal dumping.
“The same offenders keep repeating the same offense, and we want the fines in line with what it costs the city to clean up that area,” Johnson said. “If we don’t do anything about [illegal dumping], what will become of it? We love where we live, so we get out and clean it up, but we also need for the partnership with the city to get more waste services.”
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