They Turn Steam To Trash

Posted: June 07, 1986

As frustrated residents were hurling their Hefty bags into the street, Mayor Goode said yesterday that city trash collections will continue to be ''chaotic and unpredictable" until Philadelphia builds a mass-burning trash plant at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

"Until we find a predictable disposal mechanism, we will have erratic and chaotic, crisis-oriented trash collection because we don't have a predictable place to put the trash," Goode told reporters.

". . . I apologize to the citizens for what is happening, but there is no way that we can solve this problem until we find some way inside this city to dispose of our trash. It's the only way. . . . There is no other viable solution to our problem except a trash-to-steam plant at the Navy Yard."

Goode's comments came as the city Streets Department continued to struggle through one of the most problem-plagued trash-collection efforts in recent times. Pickups in Northeast Philadelphia backed up two days behind schedule this week and were canceled altogether yesterday. The Streets Department was trying two weeks later to get back on a schedule upset by the Memorial Day holiday.

Here and there across the city, residents apparently decided that if they couldn't fight City Hall, they could at least trash it.

About 5 p.m. yesterday, neighbors in Fishtown piled their uncollected rubbish in the intersection of Dauphin and Thompson streets in protest, police said. The trash pile-up caused traffic tie-ups for more than an hour until a city sanitation crew arrived and cleared up the mess about 6:30. A crowd continued to mill around until the trash truck arrived, but there were no arrests, the authorities said.

"I came home from work at about 4:30 and there was all this trash blocking streets," said Anthony Jezak of Dauphin Street near Mercer. "A couple of police cars came and they waited around, and then the trash truck came down Dauphin Street and picked it up."

An unidentified neighbor said residents were upset because their trash has not been picked up on schedule for several weeks. When they heard the trash would not be collected until next Friday, they got upset and threw it into the street.

There also were reports of trash blocking Vista Street at Bustleton Avenue in the Northeast and at several Center City intersections, but police said they could not confirm those incidents.

Streets Commissioner Harry M. Perks pointed to strain at several different levels in the collection process, including overloaded transfer facilities, insufficient landfill space, a breakdown at the city incinerator in Roxborough and disabled tractor-trailers impeding the city's efforts to haul away trash to landfills.

Earlier this week Perks called it his worst week since he took over the Streets Department in early 1985.

But Goode suggested yesterday that the city can expect more of the same at least until 1989, the earliest a new trash-burning plant could open at the Navy Yard, even if it survives opposition from South Philadelphia community groups and City Council members.

"If everything is working perfectly - if the Northwest (incinerator) is working perfectly, if the East Central (incinerator) is running, if our disposal sites are working perfectly, then everything else works perfectly," Goode said. "But if any one of those go down, then we're going to end up with backup in the system, without having anyplace to go."