Since she was hired as the city's anti-litter coordinator two years ago, Melissa Rosenfeld has spent her days searching through garbage in the secluded pockets of Pittsburgh used as illegal dump sites by residents and contractors.
"This was cleaned up in the last couple of weeks and you already have more," Ms. Rosenfeld said Wednesday at a dump site in Garfield, where garbage bags, tires and all manner of other debris, including a kitchen countertop, were piled up near a boarded-up house on a secluded street.
Ms. Rosenfeld said there are an estimated 400 such sites within city limits, and, barring catching offenders in the act, it has been tough prosecuting the people responsible for turning city hillsides, alleys and vacant lots into garbage dumps.
"It's widespread across the city. It seems to be that the dumping has definitely escalated," she said. "It makes it very easy for irresponsible people and haulers to avoid any kind of disposal fee."
However, with the help of a set of cameras donated by anti-litter groups, the city has been stepping up enforcement.
The cameras, donated by nonprofits Allegheny CleanWays and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, caught Terrell Montgomery, 44, and Michael Leese, 31, both of Penn Hills, dumping debris from a company truck onto city-owned land in the Lincoln-Larimer area Feb. 19, according to citations issued in April. Neither Mr. Montgomery nor Mr. Leese could be reached, and the citation did not identify who employed the two. Each faces a single count of littering.
Another citation was also issued to a Pitcairn resident who was working in the city as a contractor, city public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said, though attempts to obtain the citation through the police and the city's municipal court system were unsuccessful.
"We do anticipate the cameras will capture others," said Ms. Toler, who asked the Post-Gazette not to publish the exact location of the dump sites to avoid damage to the cameras.
The scale of the illegal dumpings and revelations that some of the debris came from city job sites prompted Pittsburgh City Council to pass an ordinance last week adding illegal dumping to the list of convictions "indicating a lack of business integrity or honesty" that bar contractors from bidding on or participating in city contracts for up to three years.
"Debarment may be for a longer period of time where the offense is willful and egregious providing that notice thereof is furnished," the ordinance says.
Councilman Dan Gilman, one of the bill's sponsors, said illegal dumping affects every council district and helps unscrupulous contractors undercut competitors.
"That's how they win the bid, because they're not paying their dumping fees," he said. "It costs taxpayers a lot of money."
Robert Zullo: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo.