HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A sigh of relief for residents in Houston's Sunnyside neighborhood after another illegal dumping site was cleaned up on Wednesday by city crews just hours after Action 13 stepped in to bring attention to the problem.
RELATED: Illegal dumping site continues to grow in Sunnyside, even after neighbors made complaints to 311
Terrance Jefferson and his mother have been living in the area their entire lives. But lately, it hasn't felt very homey.
"It's shameful. I sit out here and enjoy myself in my own yard. I gotta look at that. Look at the pile every day, sitting right there on my way to work in the morning. I don't understand why people can't just take their stuff to the real dump," he said. "It starts smelling, and then rodents and roaches start coming here."
In November, Jefferson reached out to Action 13 for help after calls to the City of Houston's 311 line went unresolved for months. He watched the lot of the empty houses across the street pile up with couches, carpet, shoes, and even old house phones. The site was attracting flies and developing a funky smell.
The garbage spanned the length of several homes on Larkspur Street near Duane Street and was finally cleaned up a few days after Action 13 contacted the City.
"The last time I called the city, they said, 'We'll send somebody out here,' and then never did. Then the neighbor across the street called. We kept calling until I got tired, and I called the TV company. Y'all can get stuff done. We can't get nothing done unless you guys step behind us," Jefferson said.
RELATED: Growing dumpsite in Sunnyside now cleared days after Action 13 story aired
He said on Tuesday, a new pile showed up in front of his neighbor's house. This time, it only took crews a few hours to respond once Action 13 flagged the City about the situation.
Currently, the Solid Waste Management department tells us the average wait period for clean-ups is about seven days. That's a significant improvement from two months ago, when the City rolled out their One Clean Houston initiative and response times were at 20 days, down previously from 45 days.
READ ALSO: $17 million initiative aims at tackling illegal dumping program throughout Houston
"We're able to kind of bring on a few contractors. They supplement some of the services in areas where we can't, and that is going to increase that response time. That way, the residents don't have to put up with the eyesores as well," Mark Wilfalk, director of the City of Houston's Solid Waste Management, said.
The city plans to tackle the issue of illegal dumping in multiple ways, including hiring bonuses for sanitation workers, installing more surveillance cameras, and adding more enforcement officers.
"All of our metrics and reports indicate the arrow is going in the right direction. We're seeing decreased wait times for the removal of debris. Our bulk waste collection is running on time. We're getting compliments from some residents throughout the city," said Wilfalk.
Jefferson said he is still skeptical but will wait to see what the potential long-term impacts will be.
"Who knows who gon' be the next person to come up in here? They might be going out now to pick up a load of trash, and if I'm not here, they're gonna dump it again right there and build it up," he said.
Wilfalk expressed they heavily rely on the public to help them identify hot spots. If there's a trash pile near you, call 311 and file a report
If you witness someone engaging in illegal dumping, the city of Houston also offers the public an online form and multiple phone numbers to report illegal dumping:
- Rat-on-a-Rat Line: (713) 525-A-RAT or (713) 525-2728
- Harris County's Environmental Crime Tipline: (832) 927-1567
- Crime Stoppers: (713) 222-TIPS (You can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000)
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