Dear PoPville – Help in Getting Rid of Illegal Dumping

“Dear PoPville,

We are at our wits end. I have a suspicion we are not the only city residents dealing with this issue. Our calls and emails to city officials have thus far been helpful in getting us on the right track to navigate DC’s bureaucracy. But we’ve been told the soonest possible date this huge trash heap can be cleaned up is October 3. And that is unlikely as the city will send out yet another inspector to see if the property owner has cleaned up the mess and only then will they hire a contractor to actually do the clean up.

This heap has been in existence at a now vacant home since September 1. It has grown a little every week. The mattress you see on top and the glass cabinet and cardboard box in the foreground are new this week. All of the homes adjacent to the vacant property are now dealing with cockroach and rodent infestations. The picture does not do justice to the depth of the pile.

I want 2 things to happen:

1) This pile needs to be cleaned up and thrown away.
2) Whoever is adding to the pile needs to stop.

I’d be curious to hear from other people who have dealt with similar issues. How did you get it done?

Neighbors on the 900 block of 7th St NE”

I’ve had success with 311 but it seems like this could also be a public health issue with rodent infestations. Has anyone dealt with a similar situation? Anyway (besides contacting your council member) to get the city to expedite the clean up?

40 Comment

  • I once put up a sign on the fence by one of these kinds of piles in Petworth that read “Area is now under video surveillance, illegal dumpers will be prosecuted” or something like that. Worth a shot.

    • You can buy a fake camera at radio shack for 15 bucks, mount it on the wall with tape. Problem solved, but the mess should be removed first.

  • +1 on video for future. I had the exact same thing next door. Stay tenacious, get the council member involved. Ultimately what paid off for us was 1) kids from nearby public housing were playing with, on and around the pile of debris creating a high probability somebody was going to get hurt and 2) We were successful in getting the entire house secured/cleaned up etc and the 40k+ fine pushed the property into foreclosure. It is now a beautiful home with a wonderful family.

  • While I understand the frustration in the slow way the city (most places too) has thusly handled this, I really don’t understand why you and your neighbors just don’t have it removed. There are tons of trash removal services. I’ve used a few on Craigslist and never paid more than 225-275 bucks for that volume of trash (looks to be ~2 full size pickup loads).

    If this is as big of a problem as it seems, is you and the 3 other closes neighbors throwing in 60-70 bucks a person at this problem to get it taken care of this afternoon really going to be a hardship.

    Also, as you’ve seen the longer it sits there the more people abuse the situation and continue to dump there (as you’ve seen).

    Waiting for the city to take care of this is just asking for disappointment. It is sad that that is the reality, but thats the way it is.

  • saf

    From an email from DPW today:
    “participate in the Department of Public Works (DPW) live, online chat on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, at noon. To participate, place into the search browser or visit and select the “Live Chat” icon in the right navigation area of DPW’s homepage once the chat session begins. You can also follow these same instructions to review the chat transcript once the session is over.”

  • A call to your council member may be a pretty good way to go, especially with the cloud hanging over most of their heads. Maybe they can do something to show they’re worth the six-figure salaries that they make.

  • Pat Collins and NBC 4 would love this.
    Pehaps you could catch some of the roaches, put them in a jar and bring them to your Councilman/woman’s office?

    Question: If the homeowners were to pay to haul it away – could they put a lein on the property? Could be a good way of fixing the problem with the hope of recovering your money.

  • Baby, I feel your pain. At least they’re not blocking the alley so you won’t be fined by the city. The only way I had it cleared was to call my councilwoman on suggestion from another PoP reader. The fake camera idea is excellent plus go to the hardware store and get some No Dumping signs. Oct 3rd is right around the corner. Your misery will soon be over.

  • Love the camera idea! And will definitely participate in Wednesday’s DPW chat. I knew PoP readers would have some great suggestions.

    We’ve been advised not to clean up the mess ourselves. Indeed the city will impose leins if the property owner doesn’t clean it up before a contractor comes out. If the mess goes away the city won’t follow up. And there goes our leverage to get the property on the “blighted” list.

  • Look up who the owners is. I did that for a house owned by Deutche Bank. Come to think of it. I need to do it again. It worked the first time.

  • I haven’t had any luck with 311 whatsoever. The streetlights have been out on my block since the hurricane came through, and I called 311 nearly a month ago. Still nothing.

  • I’ve always had success with calling 311. The city usually had items removed within 2 – 3 days. Jack Evans office also had the trash collection out same day for a rather large building demo/eviction dumping. Not sure if it makes a difference or not if the trash is on private or public property. If they remove it from private property, the property owner can be fined.

  • i have 2 apt units next door that dump into our one supercan. we literally have 10-12 people to one supercan. needless to say, its disgusting in front of our house, to the point where the paint is chipping off the front of the house. i call every week to report it. i just received a $75 fine because of it, too. just keep calling and complaining. i think my situation is only going to be solved when the owner of the property next door gets a clue and gets his own damn trash can.

  • Jim Graham has been good about this stuff and yet he too is frustrated by City inertia. It seemed to be a priority under Fenty, not so Gray, unless you get the media involved and also threaten to shoot dumpers (hence the media involvment, bc they love tropes like saintly gentrfiers vs. trifling and dirty black locals dumping…hey, whatever works to get them involved. Sometimes you have to conjure the devil to do righteous work LOL). I would also slip notes at neighbors asking for tips and to watch out. It will at least put the ones who are complicit in this on notice.

    I’ve never understood why city balks at dealing with this aggressively. It’s a quality of life and legal matter over which they have control…yet they want to layoff dozens od DPW staff dedicated to keep these areas clean and safe? Perhaps it’s because the mayor just doesn’t want to anger traditional residents. You don’t get support and votes by telling people to stop living like pigs?

    • That is absolutely not true! This is not a Fenty v. Gray situation. I have had issues such as this when Sharon Ambrose (ex-councilmember) and both ex-mayors Fenty/ Anthony Williams were in office. So, please don’t go there.

      • Agree with this. I might also add that we were able to get the name and number of the inspector in our area and call him directly. He came out several times to fine and clean up a blighted property. Just keep at it.

    • ah

      I have been searching on the DC website for an office I swear used to exist within the Mayor’s office–it was like a SWAT team for city messes. They would send a team to clean up trashed areas, not just dumping but grafitti, weeds, broken pavement, etc. Pretty much anything that needed fixing.

      But I can’t find it now–I assume it got cleared out with Fenty.

  • Remain calm.

    Call 311 or use online 311 at It always works. It takes about a week or 2 to get on their schedule. Then they come and clean everything up.

  • I contacted my councilperson about 5+ mattresses dumped behind my house. They were removed the next day.

  • A NOI (Notice of Infraction) must be posted/sent to the property owner first. They then have 1-2 weeks to resolve the matter after 1st notified. They will also be fined for the incident. It is doubtful that the trash is the owners. The responsibility of the owner is to secure their property so dumping does not occur.

    Once dumping starts it does tend to attract more dumping.

    DC residents can dump trash legally at the Fort Totten transfer station. Note you must have a valid DC license and the vehicle can not have commercial license plates and I believe must be registered in DC. There is a list of other various restrictions as well. But if you use a regular pickup with a few items you generally don’t have a problem

  • the government have to solve all your problems?

    • Whom would you propose?

      • pool money from neighbors and call a trash removal service.

        • What if they had a system that pooled money from ALL the neighbors in the area, since they all share a common interest in the living standards, cleanliness, and health and safety of the area? What if then that pool of money was just used to pay for whatever needed it in the community, like road repairs, trash pick-up, and the like? Hey, it could even be used to keep the water clean, maintain order, build some parks, and start a school system. You’re right, pooling money from neighbors is a GREAT idea! Now we just have to think of a name for this system….

          • hahahha! point taken. but you this post was about getting results. i’m an idealist at times too, right up until i absolutely have to get shit done.

  • 311 has never been responsive for this issue. They close the ticket (illegal dumping, alley cleaning, sanitation enforcement, etc.) with no action continually, going on three years dealing with this problem now.

    Nope, don’t expect the Government to solve all my problems, but this isn’t MY problem, it is EVERYONE’s problem.

  • I second all the people who’ve said to contact your councilmember.

    D.C. agencies that are otherwise unresponsive, sluggish, etc. tend to sing a different tune when it’s a councilmember contacting them, not just a regular citizen.

  • I’ve had mixed results with DPW bulk pickup — the biggest problem involves large scale dumping of smaller items which DPW won’t remove. If somebody dumps a couch or appliance at least it’s eligible you can call DPS for removal and they’re pretty responsive. If someone leaves a big pile of s@#! they won’t touch it.

    DPW should act and fine egregious cases. I finged a neighbor who pulled this in our alley — it was an estate deal and not the neighbor herself, who recently died, so I didn’t even know how to get a hold of them to register my displeasure. The people handling the estate didn’t give a s@#! and DPW wouldn’t take it despite repeated requests, so I tossed the stuff back over their fence into their yard. Hope they have fun with that during their open house!

  • Light it on fire. That’ll draw the city’s attention rather quickly.

    (Not a serious suggestion.)

    • I agree, but I’m serious.

    • That was my first thought too. A nice bonfire would get the city moving… but only to put it out.

      If anyone is going to pay to have it hauled away, I would have it dumped on the lawn of the head of the DPW.

      And neither of those suggestions are serious.. wishes horses pigs oh my.

  • gotryit

    Fake cameras? Get real ones and shame the punks.

  • We feel your pain. Unfortunately, welcome to the good old days in DC. Mama told me there’d be days like this. Call/email the Councilmember’s chief of staff and send pictures.

  • When the former residents dumped in front of our garage, DPW was on it lightning quick when I contacted the Inspector directly.

    While we have contacted Tommy Wells on numerous occasions over the past 3 years and his chief of staff is extremely helpful, as well as our ANC rep who has been superb, we haven’t heard anything from Tommy Wells directly.

    Unfortunately there is little movement on this specific issue since it is on Private Property. We could pay to have it removed, but then we are liable for it and have trespassed on private property while committing a crime (theft). That coming from my company’s resident lawyer. So if we removed it and the owner wanted to be a D$&K about it…you can see where that is headed.

    Thanks for all the responses!

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