Illegal dumping cleanup requests nearly tripled in LA since 2017, city report shows

The increase in illegal dumping service requests to L.A. Sanitation comes as the department is suffering from pandemic-related budget cuts and hiring freezes.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- To most of the world, Los Angeles is a land of movie stars, sunny beaches and sparkling skyscrapers. But, a new report from the L.A. Controller's Office shows an increase in illegal dumping that makes the City of Angels look more like a city of rubbish.

"It is a public health issue, it's a public safety issue, it's an environmental issue," said L.A. city controller Ron Galperin.

Frustrated Angelenos aren't hard to find as garbage piles up along streets and in alleys.

"Who's going to pick it up?" said Echo Park resident Michael Ojeda. "Would you do that where you live?"

Galperin's 39-page report revealed that monthly illegal dumping service requests to L.A. Sanitation's Livability Services Division nearly tripled between 2017 and 2020. The average in 2017 was about 850 requests per month and from January to September in 2020, the average was nearly 2,500 requests per month.

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There was a similar increase in the amount of waste collected. In 2017, L.A. Sanitation collected an average of 901 tons of solid waste per month. From January through August 2020, L.A. Sanitation collected twice that amount per month, an average of 1,816 tons.

"And in some neighborhoods it's actually been 600 or more percent increase," said Galperin.

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Galperin also said the dumping comes from a combination of residents and businesses. The controller's report found that about 61% of the dumped items were bulky items and appliances, based on data from July 2019 to March 2020. About a third were general debris and trash and about 6% were construction materials.

He said it's hard to blame the homeless for the problem when large amounts of trash are made up of construction material and large appliances. These items can also be harmful to the environment and people who come into contact with the items, Galperin said.

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, L.A. Sanitation has been dealing with budget cuts and a hiring freeze. To deal with this increasing problem, Galperin said the city needs more staff and an increase to the illegal dumping fines to the state maximum of $3,000.

"The first fine can often be as low as $250. At that kind of a low fine, it's almost an incentive to dump it on the street," he said.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti briefly addressed the city's dumping problem Thursday, saying L.A. has more than tripled the number of public trash cans, and pointing to Caltrans and the state as needing to do more.

"I hope coming out of this pandemic we'll see a priority, not just here but throughout the state," Garcetti said.

Galperin also addressed the state's responsibility.

"Look at all of the entrances and exits to freeways. It's the state that is responsible for that and they're not doing their job either," he said.

Galperin said money the city is getting from the federal government as part of the pandemic stimulus package should help.

"I think it's a real opportunity to make sure that we are staffed up for this," he said.

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