Category Archives: Waste.Management

Wastewater company to pay state $1.6 million to settle spill

Source: Sarah Betancourt, Associated Press, April 10, 2018

A wastewater treatment firm agreed Tuesday to pay $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit with Massachusetts for a spill in which more than 10 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into state-owned woodlands in Plymouth and Plymouth Harbor. The settlement by Veolia Water North America Northeast is believed to be the largest ever paid for violations of the state’s Clean Waters Act, officials said. Attorney General Maura Healey said the company failed to properly maintain a piping system that carried wastewater from customers to the treatment facility in Plymouth, causing a spill from December 2015 to January 2016. Veolia also allegedly discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater into Plymouth Harbor in three separate incidences in 2012. … Veolia continues to operate the Plymouth wastewater plant. Plymouth has a separate suit against Veolia North America that contends the company also is responsible for a 2015 sewage spill that officials claim impacted the town. The Attorney General’s office also has a separate lawsuit against Plymouth, filed in 2016.

Council approves second year of Rumpke contract as costs continue to rise

Source: Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch, April 9, 2018

No savings have emerged more than a year after Columbus agreed to pay its vendor more to collect recycling and yard waste with the caveat that it would seek new ways to trim its costs. City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to approve the second year of an anticipated five-year agreement for curbside recycling and yard waste collection. The city will pay Cincinnati-based Rumpke about $8.7 million in 2018, up from about $8.5 million last year. … The city is paying significantly more for recycling and yard waste collections now than it did when it launched curbside pickups in 2012.Rumpke has been the city’s vendor since the curbside pickups began. The company held a five-year contract, and when that came up for renewal last year Rumpke was the only bidder for a new five-year deal. Rumpke’s bid was 50 percent higher than its first deal, though, citing a depressed market for recyclables and other factors that contributed to the increase. …

Union rep: City workers helped their own cause in defeating privatization plan for garbage pick-up

Source: Howard Packowitz, WJBC, February 14, 2018
 
Union workers who pick up the garbage in the city of Bloomington were relieved by the city council’s vote against exploring privatization of solid waste pick-up.  Renee Nestler, staff representative for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 699, appealed to aldermen to vote against outsourcing, and instead back higher fees for long-term solution to cut costs.  Nestler said workers have built up a lot of goodwill over the years.  “All the credit in the world goes to our members who do the job day in and day out, and where the citizens appreciate the services they do and the quality work,” said Nestler. …

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Council opts to explore solid waste fee hike, service changes
Source: Maria Nagle, The Pantagraph, February 13, 2018
 
Rather than replacing the city’s solid waste workers with private garbage haulers, the City Council directed the city staff to explore raising solid waste fees and finding cost savings in garbage, bulky waste, brush and leaf collections.  The council’s 5-3 decision at a special meeting Monday prior to the council’s regular session had city solid waste workers breathing a sigh of relief. Aldermen Jamie Mathy of Ward 1, David Sage of Ward 2 and Karen Schmidt of Ward 6 cast the dissenting votes; Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman was absent.  “We’re excited. We feel like this is something that should be taken off the table,” said Adam Smith after the meeting. He is an 11-year city solid waste employee and president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 699.  “We do a good job and we feel like we can do it better than everybody else,” said Smith. “It’s important to all of us … and job security helps morale. There’s not a lot of morale (in the solid waste division of the public works department). Hopefully, this will be a small step in building that.” …

Renner, union: Raise garbage fee to cover service costs
Source: Maria Nagle, Pantagraph, February 9, 2018
 
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner and the union representing the city’s public works employees favor raising user fees to cover the full cost of solid waste collection rather than outsourcing it.   “I just wish they could raise the fee,” said Jeremy Beutow, a 15-year public works employee and steward for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 699.  That would eliminate the stress once and for all for solid waste collection employees who worry about how yearly budget cuts will affect their jobs, said Beutow and AFSCME state representative Renee Nestler. … Renner said he sees the answer as “some version of trimming back bulk waste a little bit” and charging users the actual cost, which runs about $26 a month on average. Trash carts cost $16 to $25 per month, depending on the size. …

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Privatization of Waste Hauling Expands Nationwide

Source: Maura Keller, American Recycler, January 2018

There’s one thing we know – it is becoming more difficult for municipalities to manage and maintain their waste facilities and fleets in a cost-effective manner. Josh Allen, chief executive officer of Global Disposal, said that many municipalities are switching from open market programs and non-exclusive franchises to exclusive franchise programs. … Moreover, responsible waste and recycling solutions often require a combination of local, regional, out-of-state and overseas solutions, which may be challenging for municipalities to manage on their own. Allen said another key component driving this change is the passage of legislation such as California’s SB 1383 (requiring 75 percent landfill diversion) which requires a more aggressive and progressive approach. … According to John Fumero, a government affairs and environmental attorney with the law firm of Nason Yeager who represents municipalities in waste hauling issues, more than half of U.S. cities contract out all or a portion of their residential waste management services, including residential waste pickup. …

The Privatization Agenda Goes Bust

Source: Tom O’Leary, Jacobin, January 18, 2018

The collapse of Carillion, the mammoth UK government contractor that went bankrupt Monday, was wholly made in Britain, although it has negative consequences internationally. The reason for Carillion’s bankruptcy, which puts vital public services and thousands of jobs at risk, is that the firm and its component companies grew fat during the first phase of neoliberal economic policy and could not cope with the more recent phase, austerity. The immediate cause of the collapse is a failed acquisition spree since the crisis began. Yet the underlying cause is the disastrous relationship successive governments have had with the private sector. Whether the Thatcher, Major, and Blair governments believed the nonsense they spouted about the superior efficiency of the private sector is immaterial. Only the willfully ignorant could ignore the litany of failed privatizations and the extortion of PFI “public-private initiative” contracts that followed their policies. The real purpose of Thatcherite economic policy, which has become widely known as neoliberalism, was precisely to hand state resources and revenues to the private sector. …

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Carillion directors to be investigated
Source: BBC, January 16, 2018

The government has ordered a fast-track investigation into directors at the failed construction firm Carillion. The UK’s second biggest construction firm went into liquidation on Monday, after running up losses on contracts and struggling with heavy debts. The business secretary has asked for an investigation by the Official Receiver to be broadened and fast-tracked. The conduct of directors in charge at the time of the company’s failure and previous directors will be examined. Carillion’s business is now in the hands of the official receiver, which is reviewing all of Carillion’s contracts. The company employed 43,000 people worldwide, 20,000 in the UK, and had 450 contracts with the UK government. …

Carillion’s Government contracts could have been stopped by a single law. Why wasn’t it used?
Source: Hazel Sheffield, Independent, January 16, 2018

Carillion is part of what is known as ‘the shadow state’: a group of large companies secretively awarded government contracts to run Britain’s public services. There are others. …

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Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection

Source: Kiera Feldman, ProPublica, January 4, 2018
 
Shortly before 5 a.m. on a recent November night, a garbage truck with a New York Yankees decal on the side sped through a red light on an empty street in the Bronx. The two workers aboard were running late. Before long, they would start getting calls from their boss. “Where are you on the route? Hurry up, it shouldn’t take this long.” Theirs was one of 133 garbage trucks owned by Action Carting, the largest waste company in New York City, which picks up the garbage and recycling from 16,700 businesses.  Going 20 miles per hour above the city’s 25 mph limit, the Action truck ran another red light with a worker, called a “helper,” hanging off the back. Just a few miles away the week before, another man had died in the middle of the night beneath the wheels of another company’s garbage truck. … In the universe of New York’s garbage industry, Action is considered a company that takes the high road. A union shop, it offers starting pay of about $16 per hour for helpers and $23 for drivers, far more than many other companies. And unlike some other companies, Action provides high-visibility gear and conducts safety meetings. But since 2008, the company’s trucks have killed five pedestrians or cyclists.  In New York City overall, private sanitation trucks killed seven people in 2017. By contrast, city municipal sanitation trucks haven’t caused a fatality since 2014. …

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Commercial trash workers testify against conditions
Source: David Giambusso, Capital New York, April 30, 2015

During a City Council debate Wednesday over free enterprise and recycling diversion rates in New York’s private carting industry, members of the sanitation committee heard from a group of stakeholders who rarely voice concerns about the industry publicly: workers in the private trash trade. “When you only earn minimum wage and are working 60 hours a week in the bitter cold snow and ice—I feel like I am being taken advantage of,” said Carlton Darden, who works for the private hauler Five Star Carting, in testimony to the Council. “I feel as if I’m a slave,” testified Michael Bush, another Five Star employee. “I feel used and degraded. I feel as if I’m nobody, but this job is a real responsibility to keep the streets of New York City clean.” Juan Feliz testified that he was fired from Mr. T Carting after contracting cancer—a condition he attributes to chemicals and debris he was exposed to on the job….. Workers testified that they can make 300 stops a night throughout the city during 16-hour shifts, leading to poor recycling rates and safety hazards for residents and workers alike. They said some companies pay workers as little as $8.75 an hour to pick up 20,000 pounds of trash per night, per worker. Workers are expected to provide their own gloves, boots and reflective gear and receive little or no training at some companies, the men testified. …

High-Class Trash /Why it costs so much to haul garbage in New York—at least when the Department of Sanitation is doing it
Source: Matthew Hennessey, City Journal, 15 July 2014 [editor’s note: City Journal is published by the Manhattan Institute]

….Less often thought of as a uniformed workforce, however, are the Big Apple’s 7,200 sanitation workers, who have been without a contract since 2011. The last contract negotiated by the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association Local 831 resulted in a 17 percent raise over 54 months for workers. But according to a May report by the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), the bill for collecting and disposing of New York’s trash is already much higher than in other large American cities. Can Gotham really afford to pay more?

With a population of 8.3 million and the second-largest urban economy in the world, New York City produces lots of garbage—about 8 million tons annually—but the city’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is responsible for hauling only half of it. The rest is handled by roughly 250 private hauling firms, which contract with local businesses to remove commercial waste. The CBC calculates that the sanitation department spends $431 per ton to collect and dispose of garbage, while the city’s private haulers do it for just $183 per ton. How do private waste-hauling firms, which are both unionized and heavily regulated, manage to pick up and dispose of trash so much more efficiently than the sanitation department?

For starters, the private firms do a better job on the disposal side than the city does. The DSNY sends just 14 percent of the waste it collects to recycling plants, which pay for the materials they receive—up to $25 per ton for paper recyclables, depending on market variations—with most of the rest going to landfills (a small amount gets converted into energy). Private haulers, by contrast, send 63 percent of what they collect to recycling plants, lowering their disposal costs considerably.

The real difference between the public- and private-sector trash haulers, however, shows up on the collection side—specifically, how much those who do the collecting get paid. City sanitation workers benefit from incentives such as “productivity” bonuses and shift-differential payments, which are rarely offered to their counterparts in the private workforce, and they get substantially more paid days off, including unlimited sick days, the CBC report found. The benefits add up. In 2012, the average DSNY employee earned 39 percent more than the average worker at a private trash-hauling firm in the city. Total compensation for a first-year DSNY employee—including overtime, holiday pay, health insurance, and retirement benefits—tops out at over $100,000. A city sanitation worker with more than 20 years on the job earns almost $170,000 in total compensation. The DSNY’s highest-paid employee in 2013 took home $219,233, more even than then-commissioner John Doherty…..

Florida’s disposable workers: Companies profit from undocumented laborers, dump them after injuries

Source: Maria Perez, Naples Daily News, December 14, 2017

Florida law makes some immigrants in high-risk jobs disposable, allowing businesses and insurers to benefit from their work without covering injuries. …. Some Florida businesses profit from the labor of unauthorized immigrants after accepting phony identification when hiring them, and then the employers or their insurers report them after a work injury for using false documents, a yearlong Naples Daily News investigation found. …. When authorities arrested 12 undocumented workers in a Fort Pierce Waste Pro plant in 2012, accusing them of obtaining a job with false identifying information, six employees told officers they were hired under the identities of former workers or with false information provided by managers or another worker. Arrested workers told U.S. Department of Labor investigators they were asked to pay hundreds of dollars in kickbacks to work at the company. They also said managers threatened to report them to immigration authorities if they said they were injured at work when seeking medical care. The Labor report on the 2013 investigation stated a supervisor once threatened to fire or report for deportation employees who didn’t pay $50 each. State investigators charged the workers for using fake identities, but not the employer. Federal labor officials didn’t cite the company for the kickbacks, saying the violations occurred beyond a two-year statute of limitations, according to the report. Waste Pro was not charged with wrongdoing, it cooperated with investigators, and increased scrutiny of employment documentation company lawyer Amy S. Tingley said. …

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12 Waste Pro workers accused of providing fraudulent Social Security numbers to get jobs
Source: Will Greenlee, Palm Beach Post, July 19, 2012

Twelve Waste Pro USA employees were arrested Wednesday after state investigators received information suggesting workers there submitted fraudulent Social Security numbers for employment purposes, according to affidavits released Thursday.

Governing garbage: Advancing urban sustainability in the context of private service delivery

Source: Jacqueline Peterson and Sara Hughes, Cities, October 2017

Abstract:

City governments across North America are increasingly pursuing sustainability aims through novel policies and practices. Such efforts frequently involve changes to municipal services that are provided by the private sector. However, the implications of private service delivery for public sustainability aims are not well understood. We use the experience of Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area with organic waste recycling to examine how different types of public-private relationships in service delivery shape the ability of municipalities to pursue sustainability through organic waste recycling programs. We find that municipalities with contractual relationships with waste haulers – “organized” systems – have greater success in introducing organic waste recycling than municipalities with licensing relationships with waste haulers – “open” systems. These findings point to the importance of institutional variation in public-private relationships to the success of urban sustainability initiatives and the ability of decision makers to affect change.

Nuclear Negligence

Source: Center for Public Integrity, August 1, 2017

Nuclear Negligence examines safety weaknesses at U.S. nuclear weapon sites operated by corporate contractors. The Center’s probe, based on contractor and government reports and officials involved in bomb-related work, revealed unpublicized accidents at nuclear weapons facilities, including some that caused avoidable radiation exposures. It also discovered that the penalties imposed by the government for these errors were typically small, relative to the tens of millions of dollars the NNSA gives to each of the contractors annually in pure profit.

  1. A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal: Repeated safety lapses hobble Los Alamos National Laboratory’s work on the cores of U.S. nuclear warheads
  2. Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production: A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks
  3. Light penalties and lax oversight encourage weak safety culture at nuclear weapons labs: Explosions, fires, and radioactive exposures are among the workplace hazards that fail to make a serious dent in private contractor profits
  4. More than 30 nuclear experts inhale uranium after radiation alarms at a weapons site are switched off: Most were not told about it until months later, and other mishaps at the Nevada nuclear test site followed
  5. Repeated radiation warnings go unheeded at sensitive Idaho nuclear plant: The inhalation of plutonium by 16 workers is preceded and followed by other contamination incidents but the private contractor in charge suffers only a light penalty
  6. Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials: Los Alamos laboratory’s recent mistakes in shipping plutonium were among dozens of incidents involving mislabeled or wrongly shipped materials associated with the nuclear weapons program

Higher Rates, Missed Pickups: L.A. is Hearing a Rash of Complaints About its New Waste Removal System

Source: David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2017

Eight months ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted to overhaul the way trash is picked up at tens of thousands of businesses and large residential buildings, giving the work exclusively to a select group of companies. Backers of the program, championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the new system would increase recycling, roll out cleaner-fuel trash trucks and improve workplace safety for sanitation workers. But the new program, known as RecycLA, is not being universally welcomed by the businesses and residents who will rely on it for their trash pickup. In recent weeks, customers have begun complaining about soaring prices, uncollected trash and calls to their new waste hauling companies going unreturned. …