Monday, August 26, 2013

Dirty Streets And What We Should Do About Them

It would be hard not to notice the dramatic uptick in the number and level of new restaurants or bars in the downtown area. I have mentioned so many in posts here over the years. Some of them have failed or closed in the difficult first few months but so many more are thriving and the vitality of downtown is showing it.

Along with the brick and mortar locations we have seen the reluctant acceptance of our mobile vendors in the noontime and overnight hours. I have to admit that at first I was somewhat concerned about the residual mess which can be left behind once they have moved on. In some cases the fault lies with the vendor but mostly I believe that the patrons are most at blame. Generally, if we make a mess of our city, we are reluctant to clean it up and this is not the first time that I have mentioned it.

Making a mess on our streets (or sidewalks) and leaving it for others to clean up apparently comes as second nature to most of us. Why else would there have to be public service announcements on litter control or blowing our grass clipping into the street and subsequently into the storm sewer system. Did we not learn to be good stewards of our planet in church or school?

There are several city agencies which have enforcement jurisdiction over these events but often they can only document the infraction well after it has occurred. A friend today told me of one instance where they were photographing mud in the street from a construction site. Being that it was on Friday, will it be Monday until something is done?
Mill Street @ Goodfella's

All of this is prolog to something that I have seen more of this summer than I believe I have before. I have numerous photos of situations along our downtown sidewalks where the garbage receptacles either crowd the walkway or are in close proximity to sidewalk cafe diners. In each case a less than acceptable condition, but this year what I am seeing is IN the street.

Maybe it is the above normal rainfall which has occurred this year or failure to fully close the Herbies on the curb but excess moisture is infiltrating the waste collection system, and spilling onto the street itself. Some days, usually after a heavy rainfall, the streets where the garbage truck collects the waste will have a smelly residue of greasy, leached water from the Herbies of our restaurants and even our day cares. 

Below are several typical images.

Market Street just north of Short
Detail of leachate

Morton Alley@ Natasha's
Storm Drain In Morton Alley

This problem is also seen at sites with dumpsters and particularly older dumpsters. In fact, City Hall had a similar situation with its waste removal. Where a dumpster or two used to sit behind the building on Water Street, they have now located one of their own refuse trucks so that when it is full they can just drive it away. It has recently been enclosed in a manner required of any other development in Lexington, as seen here.

Someplace to place a nice mural before long
Before this truck was hidden from view, I can recall seeing a molded tray-like apparatus on the ground under the refuse hopper at the back of the truck. It appeared to be there to catch the drippings of leachate from the truck since they are not watertight.

The city seems to be able to control the problem in its own back yard where it is generally out of view, but falls flat when it comes to the quite public streets and sidewalks of our blossoming downtown. I do not think for one second that this is unique to Lexington or for urban areas in general, so someone must be working on a solution somewhere. To leave this detritus on our streets is not only unsightly and foul smelling but also contrary to the PSA's aimed toward the general population. Given a good rain, all of this stuff will end up in our storm sewers and creeks.

I have had people ask me why the city picks up the downtown garbage at - what appears to them - the height of the evening rush hour.  I also have been caught behind a city truck while trying to leave downtown once or twice.  My answer is that I don't know, but if some of these collection points are very near the established outdoor cafe seating that it just exacerbates the problem on hot summer nights.

So, from where does this problem stem?  Are we throwing away too much uneaten food (always a problem with the restaurant business) and are we mixing it with the rest of the disposables as garbage?  Can more of it be composted without adding extra burden on the kitchen and wait staff?  Is the flaw in the design of the compactor trucks in the city's fleet or the collection methods employed by personnel operating these trucks?  Are there some safe, ecological, sanitizing procedures with which to target such sites when they are identified?

Is this a government issue, a Health Department issue and don't let the EPA find out about this or it will be their issue?  I think that this is a "Lexington has an image problem" issue and we all need to try to do what we can.


Mari Adkins said...

"I think that this is a "Lexington has an image problem" issue and we all need to try to do what we can."

Mari concurs.

You know how a lot of our state parks have "clean up" days? Maybe we could do "clean up lexington" events. ???

Lexington Streetsweeper said...

I think that what we need is more than a few "clean up" days for the community to "feel" better about themselves.

This is a long standing problem of not taking pride in daily looks of our hometown. We would almost need a cadre of volunteers to follow the trucks and sanitize after them or precede them to properly containerize the garbage prior to pick up. How about we just not dump it in the street to begin with? I know that it is not going to happen but we all need to try.

Mari Adkins said...

Oh I agree. I was just thinking the clean up days as a way to get started. Not a cure-all.