A number of Chester residents have been stepping up to battle the illegal dumping of trash in their community with recent clean- up efforts. This past weekend, community groups including Making A Change Group, The Bridge Church and volunteers from Covanta, a trash-to-steam facility, gathered near the Edgemont Park Apartments to clean up a large pile of illegally dumped trash and furniture.

“We’re supporting the efforts of a group of Chester residents that have been doing this for a few weeks now,” said Cory Long, 44, the organizer of Saturday’s clean-up. “We realize the city has a trash issue and an illegal dumping issue. So we’ve been coming together with like-minded individuals, determined to clean our city up and help city officials with the load.”

Chester Mayor Thaddus Kirkland confirms there have been trash issues in the past few months as contactors have had employees come down with the coronavirus, have had to be quarantined, or have become so overwhelmed and depleted they actually quit.

“It’s not just something that has happened in the city of Chester. Upper Darby had to quarantine their entire crew and Philadelphia is being overrun with trash,” Kirkland said. “We just ask residents to be patient and try their best to put out as little trash as they can. I know that is difficult.”

Kirkland also pointed out the city is shorthanded with a number of employees laid off.

“We’re not all the way fully staffed, as of yet, many of our city workers are still laid off and many are working partial days, “said Kirkland. “Our workers are not working full time, as of yet. We are not only in a pandemic; we are in a receivership.”

Long, the founder of Making A Change Group, said volunteers were also at the Benjamin Banneker Homes working with residents in that community cleaning up. He said his organization was supporting “Chester Sweeps” a new group of residents that has been holding bi-weekly clean ups around the city.

“I was starting to notice the trash was piling up. Residents were illegally dumping because the city was not coming out to get the trash,” said Carol Kazeem who, with fellow community organizers Kristie Barnes and Me'Chelle  Gadson, decided to do something about it and formed ‘Chester Sweeps.’ “Let’s go out to these residential areas and try to eliminate the trash that’s not being picked up. I figured a lot of youngsters, like myself, can come out and initiate this. We’ve been doing this for two months, every other Saturday. Cleaning up, doing the best we can do.”

The group has been moving around the city. Next week, they will be on Ninth and Ward at Memorial Park. Each Saturday the group cleans a different section of the citya.

This past Saturday morning, the group descended on a large pile of illegally dumped debris near the Edgemont Park Apartments and quickly picked up the mattresses, chairs and bags of garbage and placed them in a dumpster supplied by the city for removal to the Covanta trash-to-steam plant that turns the trash from Chester County, and much of Delaware County, into energy.

“Hopefully, we can help find a solution to some of this illegal dumping,” said Don Commarata, business manager for the Covanta facility, who was volunteering with six other members of his staff. “We saw there an increase of this with the COVID, and we wanted to help out the community. We’re neighbors.”

Commarata said the trash-to-steam plant produces 60 megawatts of power a year and employs than 100 local residents.

George Odom of Woodlyn was among those helping Saturday. "I come from this community, it's the best possible way I can help," he said as he threw a bag of trash in the dumpster.

Kirkland urged residents to report illegal dumpers to police.

“Our best way of catching dumpers are our residents,” said Kirkland. “We need their eyes and ears to catch them. When caught, we will fine and take their vehicles.”

Kirkland recommended using the downloadable Chester police app for phones. Residents can also call 610 447 7931.

“We need all the partners we can when it comes to keeping our city clean,” said Kirkland.” If other residents and community groups would like to join in help us to clean our city and keep it clean we are more than willing to partner with them.”

For those who would like to volunteer, Chester Sweeps will hold its next clean up this coming Saturday, Aug. 15, at Ninth and Ward at Memorial Park. Volunteers gather at 10:30 a.m with clean up beginning at 11.

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