Sweeping Industry News Bulletin
Memphis City Workers Caught Using Illegal Dump Site
The Memphis I-Team television cameras caught City of Memphis street sweeping crews illegally dumping on a dead end street. There were piles of trash, including Memphis City Beautiful boxes. That is the city agency devoted to making Memphis a cleaner city.
The Memphis I-Team television station conducted an investigation into illegal dumping by the City of Memphis street cleaning and right-of-way cleaning crews. The station's reporters uncovered an illegal dump site being, essentially, run by Memphis Public Works employees. As a result of the television station's findings, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is now investigating and the city has started an internal investigation of its own. Within days of the investigation, the illegal dump site was cleaned up and a monitoring camera installed to monitor activity at the site.
According to the station's website, Memphis Public Works Director Dwan Gilliam was quoted as saying, when confronted by the allegations, "This is a very embarrassing situation and it is inexcusable. You have City Beautiful material that is being illegally dumped in public. That is a major embarrassment. There is no way for us to explain it. I can assure you, now that you guys are making us aware of it, we have moved very swiftly to keep it from ever happening again."
For weeks, the television station had reporters watching Memphis-owned street sweepers, who spend their day driving around Memphis cleaning city streets, come to the dead end street and dump what they collected in the middle of the road. Yet, according to state environmental officials, street sweeping material is supposed to be sent to a landfill and not left in the middle of a street.
Gilliom says years ago material collected by the city's sweepers was taken to a landfill at the end of every work day. Over time, somehow that stopped. He isn't sure how or when other city workers decided to start dumping trash here too. Much of the debris the city assumed came from the general public the city managers has now learned came from its own right-of-way crews.
Street sweepers were dumping the material they collected during the day. Street sweeper employees were dumping their sweeper hoppers at the site, then pulling out their water flushing system hoses and washing the remain debris out of their sweepers on a dead end street in north Memphis.
The station's investigation determined that the dump site was also a violation of Tennessee state environmental laws. Storm water laws were being violated because the material at the illegal dump site, which was initially collected from Memphis streets, ended up going down the city's storm drains and out into the Mississippi River. By statute, street sweepings are supposed to go to a landfill.
"When I saw the video, I realized what was going on and that it was a problem and needed to be corrected," said Robert Knecht, Deputy Public Works Director. "The main purpose of street sweeping is to get that material up so it doesn't get into the storm water system. The drivers were supposed to be washing out their trucks at special locations around the city that are equipped to handle potentially hazardous material."
When senior investigator Jeni Diprizio asked Knecht why the employees washed the trucks on the street, Knecht responded, "That's a good question. We're investigating that, honestly, and there are a number of investigations going on."
The day after the Local I-Team confronted the city about the illegal dump, the site was cleaned up. "No dumping" signs were put up and a sky cop camera was placed in the area. At least four public works' employees and a manager are being disciplined for their involvement.
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