Health board tells trash hauler to stick to the rules

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SHIRLEY — Adding another chapter to the continuing saga of trash pick-up problems the Board of Health has cited him for before, Northside Carting co-owner Mark George came to the board’s Monday meeting to explain why his drivers have been mixing trash with recyclables and picking up trash that’s not in official town bags purchased by residents.

The short version of George’s case was “It didn’t happen,” Chairman Joseph Howlett said Monday night.

But two health board members witnessed it.

Such practices not only cost the town extra money for tipping fees but also defeat the purpose of the pay-as-you-throw program, board members said, which is to provide a necessary public service that pays for itself.

“We’re seeing spikes in tonnage,” Howlett told a reporter after George had left.

For example, a typical load would be six tons but on a recent Friday, it was nine tons. “That’s 6,000 added pounds, or 150 more bags of trash,” Howlett said.

Those numbers don’t match up with bag sales, he said, so the question is, where is that added amount coming from?

According to the board, it came from curbside pick-ups that shouldn’t have happened.

Northside workers are not supposed to collect trash left at curbside unless it’s in “official” green bags with the town seal, sales of which offset program costs.

But Howlett said they have been taking other trash, too.

On a recent trash day drive-by, he saw a barrel parked outside a resident’s home with one green bag perched on top and a couple of white or clear bags stuffed underneath. “There should have been three green bags,” Howlett said.

When he passed the same house later, after the truck had rolled by, the barrel was empty. They had taken the whole load, bogus bags and all.

“We want to ensure that only green bags are collected,” he said, and the board will be tracking the balance carefully.

George was told he must do a better job training and monitoring his employees.

“These guys are making executive decisions” on board the trucks, member Jackie Esielionis commented.

The hauler has been issued stickers for workers to put on generic bags or barrels, reminding residents that they must buy the official green bags available at several town locations, including the DPW garage on Great Road, Town Offices and True Value Hardware on Ayer Road to participate in the program, which also includes free curbside recycling pick-up.

Other trash not in green bags should and will be left behind. And if the truck doesn’t stop, recycling bins put out for pick-up might get passed over, too.

Speaking of recycling, the town is doing a stellar job and has earned kudos from the state, members said. But even though it’s a mandatory part of the program, it only works if the hauler abides by the rules.

It’s illegal to mix trash and recycling, but apparently that’s happening too.

Member Donald Farrar said he caught the truck red-handed recently at the corner of Hazen and Benjamin roads near his home.

Northside’s fleet includes a vehicle with a bifurcated maw — trash goes in one side, recycling in the other — allowing a single run with one truck. But in this instance, and probably others in the past, the repository designated for recyclables was full, so rather than leave it for a later, second run, workers were dumping recycling bins into the trash side of the “double-wide” truck, Farrar said.

Farrar said he flagged down the driver, halting the run, and contacted George.

The route had at least 47 more stops from there to Clark Road, Farrar said, and every one would have been another mixed pick-up, adding to the tonnage total and the tipping fee.

George claimed he didn’t know and promised to do better. But he was told the company’s double-wide, dual-purpose trash truck couldn’t be used in Shirley any more, Farrar said.

Northside Carting, a family-owned firm based in North Andover, has time to get its act together. But not that much.

The town’s contract with the company ends in June 2015 and new contract bids go out in January or February, Esielionis said.

Although the board will be on the lookout for the best deal in terms of cost, the hauler’s past performance will be a top consideration, members agreed.