The problem:: Trash cans in Southwest Baltimore have become a dumping site.

The back story:: A well-intentioned idea to keep city gateways clean quickly turned into a nuisance on South Gilmor Street at Wilkens Avenue.

"What was designed to be a good thing didn't turn out to be," said Anne Ames, who wrote to Watchdog to get two metal trash cans removed from her New Southwest/Mount Clare community.

The metal cans with plastic liners were installed along with two park benches in the Wilkens Avenue median. Neighborhood residents and passing drivers dumped household garbage in them, and trash accumulated under the inner-can liners, which seemed too small.

Staff from the city's Department of Public Works emptied the cans regularly "but they don't do anything about all the trash that's fallen to the side or below," Ames said. "Wind comes and blows it all over the place after what they picked up has been emptied."

She contacted 311 and other city officials more than a month ago to request that the cans be removed, but unfortunately nothing changed.

Public works spokesman Robert Murrow agreed that the can liners can get damaged and fit poorly if they are abused.

"They are meant for litter," he said. "When people start dumping their residential trash into them, you'll have that problem."

However, city officials are hesitant to pull trash cans too quickly, particularly on major arteries like Wilkens Avenue, he said. Baltimore installed 750 new trash cans at bus stops and along gateways as part of its Cleaner Greener Baltimore initiative. "We want the city to be attractive for people coming in and out of the city," Murrow said.

Normally, it would take seven days to respond to a 311 call like this. However, given the location, the spokesman said, DPW officials have been investigating since Ames' call in November to determine the extent of the dumping. If it were just an occasional problem, a supervisor could monitor the cans or DPW could schedule an additional pickup, Murrow said.

In this case, they confirmed a pattern of chronic dumping, he said.

"This is serving as a magnet for people to come and dump their residential trash," he said. "Some individuals in the area are just seeing this as a convenient trash-dumping site, and that's something we can't tolerate."

Murrow said the cans were to be removed Friday.

Who can fix this:: Steve Sharkey, division chief, Baltimore Department of Public Works Bureau of Solid Waste, 410-396-1300. City residents should call 311 to report problems.

- Liz F. Kay

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