Upper Darby trash pickup still stymied by COVID, flooding

But with dumped trash collectors and an exceptional amount of flood-damaged trash accumulating beyond its normal weekly volume in warm, wet weather, the problems worsened. The community has tried to mobilize more resources, sign contracts with private transport companies and use school bus drivers to operate vehicles. They also brought out a couple of dumpsters, with limited hours for residents to drop off household trash, although bulk items are prohibited.

“Pretty much all hands are on deck to get us into the rubbish situation,” said Rongione.

However, the stop gap measures have their own challenges. For one thing, collecting takes longer as relatively inexperienced drivers learn to move through narrow streets and navigate new routes. The community has focused on household garbage, but not on recycling, and has left items behind even after collection. Due to the timing of the twin crises, residents of some routes were skipped multiple times, leaving some with almost three weeks of trash.

“It wasn’t any kind of malice or incompetence,” Rongione said of the longest delays. “It was an unusual coincidence when the flood happened and when the quarantine began.”

For critics of the administration, however, such oversights are inexcusable.

“They are over their heads,” said Burrows. He believes the community should have asked the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for further help. “We are in a natural disaster followed by a crisis.”

He also wants the administration to allow residents to play a more active role in cleaning up and provide more dumpsters for volunteers so they can haul away debris themselves.

“We can tone this down as a community,” said Burrows. “I just want to get the trash out of here.”

Other reviewers are dismayed that there was no contingency plan for plumbing workers who tested positive for the virus. Chuck Nguyen has lived in the community for 27 years and maintains a resident Facebook page with more than 5,000 members.

“They didn’t have a plan, their plan was just, ‘Well, sit on the trash for two weeks,” said Nguyen.

For days the Facebook page has been filled with comments complaining to the administration about uncollected garbage, vitriol and some people who thankfully report when crews have come by.

Nguyen, as well as Burrows and Hamilton, do not believe the administration was sufficiently transparent or organized to provide information to local residents who are tired of dealing with piles of trash next to homes and businesses.

Rongione said the quarantine for the community’s plumbing workers was almost over and normal route collections would resume on Monday, August 24.

“We know it has been difficult for the residents and we appreciate their patience,” said Rongione.

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