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Property owners pay for dumped trash
Almonds that were just knocked off the trees and waiting to be windrowed share space with a pile of garbage dumped by unknown perpetrators at the orchard on the corner of Woodward Avenue and South Union Road. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Someone dumps a pile of garbage in front of your property. It is strewn all over the place. The perpetrator is unknown. So what do you do?

If you are the property owner, cleaning up the trash and getting rid of the eyesore is your responsibility. That means placing all the scattered garbage in a city-supplied trash container and putting it in the right place at the time scheduled for collection in your area.

This is a City of Manteca regulation that applies to both residential as well as commercial locations, said Deputy Director of Public Works John Clymo. But it’s an ordinance that is causing frustration and some confusion among property owners in newly incorporated “rural” areas within Manteca’s city limits.

Such was the case recently when local farmer David Roorda, arriving shortly after sunrise at his almond orchard on the northwest corner of South Union Road and Woodward Avenue, was rudely met by a sight he has never seen before. More than two-dozen large black garbage bags plus a slew of other discards and trash including empty plastic pails, bottles and other hard-to-distinguish objects that appeared to be remodeling or landscaping waste products, were scattered along the length of the orchard facing Woodward Avenue, a scant two to three feet away from almonds that have just been knocked down from the trees waiting to be windrowed.

Roorda became even more frustrated and angry when he called the Solid Waste Division and was informed that the job of cleaning up the piles of waste on the property was his responsibility, just like all the other residential and commercial properties in the city, and regardless of who were the perpetrators who dared to trash and mar the appearance of his orchard. He was advised to gather all the unsightly refuse, and have them placed in the large dumpsters provided by the city to be picked up by the garbage trucks later on. All related expenses such as the fee for the two dumpsters needed to contain all of the trash were billed to Roorda.

The incident illustrates what happens in garbage collection when an unincorporated area becomes part of the City of Manteca. In San Joaquin County rural areas, such as the mainly agricultural parts south of Manteca, garbage dumped on roadsides are collected by the county if they happen to be impeding right-of-way sites. Otherwise, the farmer or rural property owner becomes the entity responsible for getting rid of the eyesore which can be health and safety hazards at the same time.

“It’s not that they won’t do it,” Clymo said, explaining why city crews were not sent to clean up the garbage dumped on Roorda’s almond property as he had originally requested the city to do.

For one thing, picking up garbage in Manteca has become fully automated or “containerized,” Clymo said. Garbage collectors are no longer “humping cans,” parlance for physically toting trash containers and dumping them in the garbage trucks. That’s all part of the collective bargaining agreement inked between the workers and the city. The same agreement spelled out the perimeters of what the union workers can and cannot do, which explains the situation that arose in Roorda’s case and why garbage collectors were not dispatched.

The nature of the garbage-collector’s job has changed in the last two decades, Clymo said. With fully automated trash collection, workers don’t have to carry hundred-pound cans every day – between 200 and 300 cans a day.

“You don’t do that very well once you get to be 40, 50 years old,” he said. Climbing up on the truck and getting down put a lot of physical strain on the bodies of the workers, particularly their knees, he said.

In some routes, the workers still do that in areas where they still need to get up, open the dumpsters’ gates, pull out the dumpsters and put them in a position where the trucks will be able to pick them up. “We have people right now who have knee problems from getting in and out of the truck,” Clymo said.

All residential areas, though, are now fully automated, thanks to the city’s $350,000 apiece garbage trucks that are not just fully automated but are much quieter as well than their predecessors.

One way that would have solved that problem was for Roorda to get a loader and push the trash to the right of way on the roadside. Under that set-up, the situation would have become a right-of-way issue which would have turned over the responsibility to the street workers who are not part of the solid-waste collection workers’ collective bargaining. The street workers simply needed to put the trash in dumpsters for the automated garbage trucks to easily pick up.

“It’s (the city’s) obligation to keep the right-of-way clear,” which is the task of street workers, Clymo explained.

It was a round-about way of solving Roorda’s garbage problem. However, in the end, Roorda brought in his front loader and loaded the trash in the big city dumpsters which were then hauled away.