Trash haulers say Loudoun putting workers at greater risk of contracting coronavirus
The amount of household waste produced in Northern Virginia has increased as most people are unemployed and all Virginia students go to school from home.
According to John Poague, owner of Patriot Disposal, trash has increased 30-40% as people clean up their homes, food waste, and increased shipping.
“It takes people who normally work a nine-hour day and now they work an eleven-hour day,” said Poague.
However, the increase in rubbish is not the only thing causing the grief of rubbish carriers.
Garbage hauliers, considered a vital workforce during this crisis, are at greater risk of exposure to the new coronavirus, especially as they deal with potentially contaminated waste on a daily basis.
While proper precautions like gloves and masks seem like a reasonable way to keep garbage collectors healthy, they may not be as doable as they seem.
“We’re trying to have it [trash haulers] wear them as often as you can. They run 3-5 miles on an average day. At every stop they run out of the truck and on a warmer day they are sweaty. These are not suitable conditions for a face mask, ”said Poague.
Many garbage transport companies have introduced new restrictions.
For example, Republic Services no longer collects waste that is not in sacks, and Patriot Disposal no longer collects bulk materials.
According to Poague Loudoun County has not been cooperative in implementing safety measures for garbage collectors. He said Counties of Prince William and Fairfax were, by comparison, very helpful in setting guidelines that would allow them to temporarily cease the collection of bulk materials and garden waste.
“Loudoun refused to do anything to protect the workers. Loudoun County won’t even return calls. It’s like they don’t believe the virus is out there. What they don’t understand is when our boys get sick, the trash isn’t picked up and then it’s a bigger problem, ”said Poague.
A statement by the Loudoun County Government to Potomac Local News stressed that Loudoun County residents have been urged to delay the disposal of garden waste and that they are closely monitoring waste disposal across the area.
“The district closely monitors waste disposal in the entire region together with regional managers. So far, all industry data and recommendations suggest that household waste collection and recycling, including garden waste, is possible with reasonable precautions, ”the statement said.
While the situation seems simple enough, the Loudoun County government states that they simply cannot change the requirements for the garbage and garden waste. A district ordinance stipulates that large trucks must collect yard waste. The district government cannot do this as it does not run a municipal garbage collection service.
The entire garbage collection within the district is carried out by contractors, who usually conclude contracts with local homeowners’ associations.
“In Loudoun, the board of directors would need to take action to change the county ordinance. The public procedure for amending a district ordinance has a number of requirements that can take some time. At this point the board has not yet addressed the issue at one of its business meetings, ”the county told Potomac Local News.