• Tony Bosworth

Move to dump skip bins and bring in kerbside waste collection not working, say fed up residents

Updated: Mar 21

“Residents can expect to see flood waste on the kerbside until such time as it is collected” – Council’s Executive Manager Operations

The maggots are the thing now in areas of flood-ravaged Pitt Town and the light-fingered going through flood-damaged possessions at night on the street as residents wait for refuse trucks to arrive and pick up mountains of what Hawkesbury Council call flood waste – for most people that means some of their dearest possessions out on the kerbside, as well as rapidly rotting food thrown out from ruined refrigerators.

Last year’s flood clean-up wasn’t without its problems but in 2021 the delivery of skip bins to every suburb – eventually – meant locals could dump the flood damaged items from their homes and get on with cleaning up their houses and properties.

This year the NSW government Public Works Authority decided kerbside pick-up would be the answer, rather than delivery of skip bins - and no-one appears able to explain that choice.

Hawkesbury Council says residents need to sort their flood-damaged items into specific piles. It’s a move clearly causing problems and relies on residents getting on Council’s website and registering for a pick-up, but even then there’s no guarantee a truck or two will turn up.

“This is just plain unfair,” said one annoyed resident among many on Council’s Facebook page.

“These people are dealing with a disaster. They should not have to separate their waste. Poor form Hawkesbury City Council.”

“I called Council today,” says Pitt Town resident Alana Rodwell, “ but no-one could confirm when our waste will be removed.”

One of the issues is while Public Works Authority made the decision to go the kerbside pick-up route, it’s up to an already stretched Hawkesbury Council to manage the actual pick-ups and that clearly isn’t happening as it needs to.

“Many people were not prepared this year, there was little warning as the flood rose,” said Ms Rodwell, “and there is so much damage, so much rubbish.

“Absolutely skip bins would have been a better way to manage the waste. Flood waste is often heavy, large bulky items, and is smelly.

“Having our footpath and roadsides clogged with this is rubbish is not only a constant reminder of our trauma but also a traffic hazard.”

“Those on acreage are being required to haul their waste to the front gate which is just an impossible ask.

“Frankly an independent contractor managing this would always be a better solution than Council. It stinks of cost cutting.”

One of those on acreage is a lady who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity. Her family run a large livestock operation in the Pitt Town region.

“We have spent another huge day dragging more rubbish onto the side of the road,” she told us today.

“Last year the skip bins were a Godsend for our post-flood clean up. This year we have only the option of kerbside pick-up.

“We have a farm full of rubbish that has washed in. The scale of it means it will take our limited staff months to collect.

“The kerbside is uphill, as our property is mostly on the flats. Having to trudge through all this muddy, stinky crap up to the road makes our work much more difficult.

“Also, the community has to look at our filthy rubbish on the side of the road. It’s unhygienic and a hazard for the community.”

Stacy O’Toole has lived in Pitt Town for nearly 30 years and she says, “this is the worst I have ever seen it, and I have no doubt other areas of the Hawkesbury are the same, and now we have maggots in the rubbish.

“There are piles of rubbish all over the footpath as people have nowhere else to put it. Immediate removal was absolutely necessary.

“We desperately need skip bins, as this is only the first wave of immediate clean up.”

She says residents were also not aware they needed to sort all the rubbish into specific piles – Hawkesbury Council says residents need to do that but the Council is also relying on residents being online and registering – their preferred mode of contact these days.

In any case, such are the large piles of kerbside flood-damaged items in Pitt Town there is now no room to sort out the piles into specific types of items.

People are tired, they are traumatised – the last thing most want to do is sort out rubbish into Council designated piles.

“The next wave will be when more heavy duty damage to houses is discovered with removal of damaged doors, tiles, hardwood flooring,” says Ms O’Toole.

Video of some of the washed up items on this Pitt Town livestock operation...

“This mess is just the start,” she says.

“There are many houses now flooded who have not seen a flood since 1978 so the amount of rubbish is huge. Not to mention those who have only just recovered and replaced items from last year.

“There are also concerns about rats, spiders and snakes, and houses have had raw sewerage floating through them. This is contaminated waste.

“Tensions are high and people are rightly upset. A bit of support and empathy would go a long way.

“A co-ordinated approach with skip bins and perhaps then support from the ADF to assist with removal and sorting would really help to alleviate some of the stress these people are going through,” says Ms O’Toole.

Jackie Carr is Council’s Executive Manager of Operations and she told the Post today,residents need to register a Flood Waste Collection Request on Council’s website for flood waste to be collected.

“This process enables residents to identify if they do not have a kerbside, or if they are physically unable to take flood waste from their property to the kerbside.

“Council will then work with the team managing flood waste collection to coordinate what additional assistance may be available and plan for access issues or other considerations relevant to the site.”

She says the, “2022 flood waste collection strategy is based on learnings from the 2021 response,” but out on the streets it’s hard to see how this year’s approach is better than last year.

Ms Carr adds something rather obvious...

“Residents can expect to see flood waste on the kerbside until such time as it is collected.”

“Council and partner agencies appreciate residents’ patience with this process,” she says.

Pictures of Pitt Town's Mawson Place, Wellesley Street and Eldon Street, courtesy of Stacy O'Toole.

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