LAWRENCE (CBS) – The city of Lawrence has been piling up a huge mound of trash in a DPW yard because it can’t afford to do anything else.
A group of workers say the financial choices made in Lawrence are putting their health at risk. It may look like a dump, but for years the pile of chemicals, tires, sewage and trash inside the DPW yard in Lawrence has been growing.
“These piles here, they’re all street sweepings,” says Ike Gabriel. “You can see the grass growing. Who knows what’s in there, needles, human waste, probably weapons.”
According to Ike Gabriel, the union rep for the workers there, the conditions are so bad some wear face masks to help cut the smell. And many worry it’s affecting their health.
“It is considered hazardous waste, you can’t just take it to a dump,” Gabriel says. “It has to go to a special area. They don’t have the money in the budget to haul it away anymore.”
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera is asking the state for money to help.
“Trust me, no one is happy with the conditions down there,” Mayor Rivera said. “We have to triage it. Lawrence is a poor community. We spent two million dollars recently to buy cop cars because we needed them, the cars were falling apart.”
The I-Team has learned this is not a new problem for Lawrence. The city was cited back in 2012 for violating a number of environmental regulations.
The city fixed the problem, but workers say many of those same issues, like the big pile of garbage, are once again being ignored.
Mayor Rivera says a change in management at the DPW is coming and he’s also working to increase fines for illegal dumping, the source for all those mattresses and TVs filling up the DPW yard.
“People come to our city and dump,” Mayor Rivera says. “It’s easy to get off the highway, find the empty lot and dump it.”
In the meantime, the city is working to clear the trash pile one truckload at a time.
“It’s a terrible place to have to work,” Gabriel says.
Less than 24 hours after the I-Team contacted the Department of Environmental Protection, the agency sent an inspector out to look at the site.