Dear PoPville – Who is Responsible for Addressing Illegal Dumping?


“Dear PoPville,

Take a look at this ludicrous situation – people in my building have been trying to get the alley in between Columbia and Irving on 14th Street cleaned for weeks. But DC 311 continuously passes the buck!”

42 Comment

  • What do you mean they “keep passing the buck”? Can’t you just schedule a bulk pick up? I know it doesn’t address the dumping itself, but at least it gets rid of the trash, no?

    • Passing the buck is when you shirk your responsibilities. 311 is responsible for cleaning illegal dumping and they are erroneously forward it to MPD. You should try clicking links and reading. It helps a lot in understanding issues.

  • So gross. People can be such pigs. Really. Who does that?

  • If they schedule a bulk pickup, the person who schedules it becomes responsible for the mess. They can then be ticketed if the stuff is out in the alley “too early”, not in the proper location, or if they exceed the bulk pick-up limits. It’s a Kafka’esque catch-22.

  • I’m not sure if that picture above is from the actual post, but 311 requires mattresses be wrapped in plastic before they will pick it up.

    • For “bulk pickup”, yes, but citizens should not be responsible for making illegally dumped materials ready for pickup.

    • epric002

      there’s a difference b/n scheduling a bulk pickup and reporting illegal dumping- yes? you schedule a bulk pickup if you yourself are disposing of large items. you report illegal dumping when you witness refuse that has been illegally left behind by others. i’ve definitely reported illegal dumping before (large household items) and have never been required to do anything to make the items eligible to be picked up.

  • 311 has been very efficient every time (3 times) I’ve had to call them to pick up items people have left large beds and other items in my tree boxes. I’ve often wondered if they will think I did the dumping, but so far they have been polite and the items have been removed within a few days. Thanks 311!

  • This looks like a familiar sight! There is 1 particular family on my block who always dumps mattresses, grocery carts, cribs, you name it …. should I call the police on them? Or what?

  • This alley is a disgrace. I’ve reached out to our ANC, to Jim Graham, and nothing. I thought the new proposed zoning changes were supposed to encourage more alley dwellings, no? This alley isn’t even walkable it smells so bad.

  • I live in the building that is pictured above. The problem goes far beyond the frequent mattress or other large furniture that seems to pop up on a weekly basis. People are constantly urinating in the alley, in plain view of any passerby on 14th street and directly across from the back entrance to the apartment building. Every week I yell at someone for peeing on the adjacent hospital as I quickly shuffle into my building and try to hold my breath from the smell. I constantly witness folks finishing off food from 7-11 and just tossing their trash into the alley, even when there is a garbage can five feet away. I’m not sure what should be done about the condition of this alley, but it is disgusting.

  • Bulk collection won’t pick up from an apartment building with more than 3 units.

  • epric002

    SeeClickFix (DC311 app) just went a little nutty with people reporting illegal dumping- all mattresses! 🙂

  • I have experienced this catch-22 many times before for our alley. The distinction always seems to be if you call for “bulk pickup,” you are indeed responsible for it – and it is treated like your mess. If you report “illegal dumping,” you are more likely to get a response although they will press you for evidence if you actually saw someone commit the illegal dumping. Usually, however, they will just clean it up within a week. This includes mattresses. If you call for mattress removal they will require it to be wrapped. If you report it as illegally dumped trash they will pick it up.

    It used to be you could also simply request an alley clean. I’m not sure if they still do this or not, but this does not always include the hauling of bulk items.

    • epric002

      how do they press you for evidence that you actually saw someone doing the dumping? i just submit using the app and check the box that says i did not personally witness the dumping. have never had a problem with getting them to pick it up.

  • Great. I had some cans of latex paint to get rid of and they won’t take them at the Fort Totten plant. I guess now I know where to leave them!

    • gotryit

      Kevin Twine has been helpful in a similar situation. I reported illegal dumping via 311, but then had to follow up with the ANC, who got DPW involved directly.

      Kevin, can you modify how the 311 requests are handled such that illegal dumping gets an automatic cleanup request generated?

  • That 311 thread is pretty hilarious to read.

  • Darn lazy kids these days – when I lived there a mattress left like that would have been set on fire by now!

  • I live in a house and I always receive tickets from the city inspector even after I report the bulk trash dumping.

    • epric002

      then you’re requesting bulk pickup, not reporting illegal dumping. there is a difference.

      • Not necessarily. I’m not really sure what Xiomara’s case is but I got ticketed for three different violations by a city inspector after I reported illegally dumped trash in the alley behind my house.

        • saf

          Me too – although only once.

          I reported illegal dumping. The inspector cited us.

          I appealed the ticket, included the report number from 311.

          It was dismissed.

          • Yeah, that’s basically what happened to me too although I didn’t officially “appeal”, I just made a crapload of phone calls and sent a bunch of emails. It’s only happened to me once but then I’ve only reported illegal dumping once.

  • holy lord people… this is EXACTLY what the 311 app is for. If you don’t have a smartphone… just call 311. It can take a week or so, but I’ve had amazing success getting stuff like this cleaned up. Happens all over the city.

  • It is kinda funny but not. I have put in tickets online for several things from pruning dead tree limbs over hanging the road to fixing broken sidewalks that force our wheelchair neighbors to wheel out into the street just to get around the broken spot, to picking up trash (have the best results with that one but not always) to removing graffiti etc. Over half of the time I get a “Ticket Closed” email with NO data or information or input from DC, then I get a “Your issue has been resolved, thank you for contacting 311” email lol. They do nothing, just close the ticket and head for happy hour. There is NO accountability, who are you gonna find that will bother fixing it? Really? They know most people will just get tired and drop it rather than fight the battle to have it found out, and they know they are city employees who won’t be fired if you do find out they just close tickets without any action or input as to why.

    In THIS city I guess we should be happy we get what we do as far as services lol. Vote better, get better.

    • Agreed, the app is junk. Either the limitation/design of the app is bad or the people replying just close and don’t do anything. You open saying the issue is not resolved and not to close again until it is resolved or to just give an honest response, and in 2 hours its closed again saying its resolved. What a piece of junk SeeClickFix and 311 are.

    • Sadly true – in every department.

  • We’ve had an ongoing problem like this in our back yard. 311 has actually been really good about having the city pick up the illegal stuff when we call. But when I try to call the DPW inspection office to file a complaint, the very rude secretary tells me that since the stuff (mattress, toilet, furniture, carpet, you name it, it’s been dumped) technically is in our yard, the city would hold us liable unless proven otherwise. So we don’t report it to the office that could do something about it and keep meekly calling 311 to pick up.

  • Weird. In Hill East, whenever I report illegal dumping with photos to 311, DPW always respond within the week. Without photos, they do tend to ignore it.

  • I have found that sending a service request to the DC government is very effective. Mattresses were dumped behind my condo building ( I reported them a illegal dumping). Also somebody once chained a scooter to our fence and abandoned it, and kids slowly started taking parts of it. Reported that, as well, and it was gone in a few days.

    People like to complain about DC services. I have found them very responsive to all kinds of email requests. Try it out before complaining.

  • We’ve had the same lack of response from DC city gov’t. I live on 14th and Girard (the Dunkin Donuts building) and both people living on/around Girard AND passing vehicles late at night have illegally dumped in our trash bins/area behind the building (it’s a dead-end alley). We keep getting ticketed from the city for having trash in our recycling bins, or recycling in our trash bins, or trash sorta on our property but sorta not. There seems like nothing anyone can do to stop the illegal dumping or to get the city to recognize our situation and stop ticketing the hell out of us.

    But that thread on was pretty funny!

  • If you aren’t getting a reaction from calling 311, I’d suggest that all of you get on Twitter and complain over and over to everyone involved, and it will almost certainly get something done. Twitter has been a brilliant way to publicly shame incompetent and non-responsive public officials and agencies.

    And in my experience, the SeeClickFix app has yielded mixed results. Sometimes, things get attention, whereas I’ve had other issues closed and marked as resolved by DC agencies, when they clearly were not.

  • My guess is that they are forwarding to MPD because you reported people loitering in the alley and causing a disturbance/ public urination – which is MPD’s job to break up. Maybe try submitting the issues separately.

  • This is the WORST alley in all of DC. I used to live in the building adjacent to this alley. Bottom line is this place sucks and will always be full of trash, piss, and dead rats. 311 will help today, but tomorrow there is always a fresh pile of junk waiting. Cheers!

  • I’ve called 311 for mattresses, stack of paint cans, misc furniture and never had an issue. The junk was usually cleaned up within 24 hours with no commitment or responsibility on me.

  • This alley is visible on Google Street View.
    Start at:
    3026 14th Street Northwest, Washington, DC
    Facing north, then click once to move to the next hop north.
    Turn to the west (right). Move the pointer up a bit until you get the magnifiying glass and click.
    Even without the mattress there’s a lot of litter on the ground there.

  • I have had mixed results with reporting illegal dumping. I have put in 3 tickets for two mattresses on 11th St. which keep just being closed saying the issue was dealt with…yet the mattresses remain.

    That said I put in a tree trimming request for an obstructed sidewalk and it was dealt with withing 48 hours, which surprised me.

    While the 311 app is great in that it makes it easy to report issues, it seems to get flooded with parking violations, and other issues which are time sensitive yet are still in the system days later. You would think some of them would have a time limit before being auto closed. Then again it seems like 311 just closes some of them vs doing anything at times.

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