Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Garbage-pickup woes causing a big stink

Contractor repeatedly misses dozens of city carts

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Winnipeg's switch to automated garbage carts has encountered yet another hiccup, as the city's private contractor has not consistently taken out the trash for some residents in the former autobin areas.

Nearly a month after Winnipeg swapped autobins for garbage carts, city officials say Emterra operators missed two of three garbage pickups for dozens of residents -- including multiple collections for elderly and disabled persons who require special "walk-up" service since they can't roll the carts out themselves. Collection crews normally walk on the property and help take out the trash for people in need of assistance.

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie said his office has fielded calls from residents who say crews have repeatedly missed their garbage pickups, including a 91-year-old woman who was in tears because no one has arrived to roll out and empty her garbage cart. Eadie's office has heard similar complaints from residents on Andrews Street and St. John's, Anderson, and Mountain avenues who have had to wait two weeks for garbage pickup.

"We're still getting calls of missed pickups with the new carts," Eadie said. "There are growing pains and then there's what I would call negligence."

The missed collections are the latest in a string of woes that has plagued the Aug. 1 changeover from autobins to automated garbage and recycling carts in some Winnipeg neighbourhoods.

Winnipeg saw the amount of trash in the autobin areas nearly double last month after residents and illegal dumpers rushed to get rid of unwanted bulky items before the city removed autobins for good. The changeover also sparked confusion. Some city residents who have already received their carts but do not live in the former autobin areas mistakenly put the carts out on the street for garbage pickup.

Solid waste manager Darryl Drohomerski said there are probably a couple of hundred people who require walk-up service in the former autobin areas and the city has received about three dozen phone calls from individuals who have complained about missed pickups. He said Emterra's operators have had trouble identifying residents enrolled in the city's walk-up program as most homes do not have addresses or any identifying information on their back fence or in the lane. Drivers are still trying to get used to the streets and lanes, Drohomerski said.

The city is working with Emterra to address any problems, he said, noting the contractor will have trucks equipped with GPS, which will flag people in need of assistance with the carts when the rest of Winnipeg transitions to the new carts Oct. 1.

Stan Wilchuk said his garbage cart was finally emptied on Friday after crews missed collection for two consecutive Thursdays. The St. John's Avenue resident said given the amount of preparation, he thought the transition to the automated carts would have been smoother.

"It's very disappointing we're going through these problems," he said. "There's no excuse for it not being picked up."

Winnipeg's contract with Emterra gives the company a one-month grace period once it launches the new collection service in an area. After that, Drohomerski said, Winnipeg will charge the company for missed collections.

He said Winnipeg has encountered difficulties every time the city switched garbage contractors in the past. Drohomerski said it usually takes a couple of weeks to correct any issues that arise during the transition, and he expects the number of complaints will continue to decrease in the coming weeks.

"The first couple of weeks are always lots of little mistakes," Drohomerski said. "We know to expect a few headaches in October."

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2012 B2

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