Attack of the green trucks
Three or four times a week, Mike Dent says, he is awakened by loud noises outside his house—banging and clanging and the beep-beep-beeping of a garbage truck moving in reverse.
This happens around 4:30 a.m., he says. Moments later the truck moves on to another Dumpster, and a new round of banging and beeping begins, letting Dent know he might as well quit trying to sleep and get out of bed.
For about a year now, Dent has been awakened like this, he said during an interview in his office at Chico State University, where he teaches rock climbing, backpacking and skiing.
Dent has done his research. He knows that garbage trucks aren’t supposed to collect waste before 6 a.m. if the bins are within 500 feet of a residential area. Dent lives a block west of Park Avenue near the corner of 16th and Oakdale streets. There are about a dozen Dumpsters located across the street from his house, behind businesses on Park Avenue between 13th and 18th streets.
Garbage companies that violate noise guidelines in the Chico Municipal Code can be fined $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third.
“In order to fine them, we have to catch them,” said Scott Armstrong, the city’s code enforcement supervisor. “We have to physically observe them doing it.”
Neither of the two waste companies serving Chico, Waste Management and Norcal Waste Systems, has ever been fined for early pickups, Armstrong said.
If code enforcement receives multiple complaints about an early trash pickup, someone will be sent out in the morning to wait for drivers arriving early, he added. That hasn’t yet happened along Oakdale, where most of the Dumpsters are serviced by Waste Management.
So far, Dent’s neighbors haven’t contacted the city about the frustrating wake-ups, possibly due to a lack of faith that anything will be done or simply because they don’t know where or how to lodge a complaint, he said. Code Enforcement can be reached at 879-6704.
Dent complained to the city twice last November and again in a letter in late January.
After his first complaint, Linda Herman, a management analyst for the General Services Department, contacted Waste Management. Managers there said they would take care of the problem.
“Supervisors at Waste Management are really good about this,” Armstrong said. “They talk to their drivers, and sometimes they will even go out in the morning to make sure none of their drivers are showing up too early.”
When code enforcement notified Waste Management about a Dumpster that was being emptied early from Fit One Athletics last year, a supervisor arrived early to scope it out, Armstrong said. After he caught a driver showing up early, the problem was solved.
After Dent’s last complaint, the code enforcement employee handling the case, Nancy Raimer, wrote Herman an e-mail: “Do you think you can contact them again to warn them?? I really don’t want to have to send out a notice and cite them, but, I will if you or Scott [Armstrong] thinks it is necessary.”
However it is resolved, Dent doesn’t mind. He just wants a full night’s sleep.
“It would be nice to not wake up to green trucks outside my window,” he said. “At least, it would be nice to sleep until 6 a.m.”