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Illegal dumping causing trash trouble for Denver homeowners

DENVER -- Imagine having to move a dirty couch that belonged to someone else out of the way just to pull into a driveway.

Anyone would be annoyed if that happened once, but Patrick Hughes said it happens at his house almost weekly. The most recent incident was just a few days ago when his daughter came to visit.

“My son had to come out and walk up the alley and move the couch for her so she could come down the alley,” Hughes said.

Their parking access is through the alley behind their home. They’ve lived there 27 years and said in the past two years, the trash problem has gotten out of hand.

“We’ve always had a problem with people coming down the alley dumping stuff, but for the most part, they would dump everything in the dumpsters,” he said.

Denver began transitioning away from residential dumpsters in 2014 in favor of a citywide program using individual trash bins. All 120,000 Denver homes will be transitioned to bins by the end of the year.

“We’ve seen that the conversion to trash bins decreases the amount of trash that is thrown away and collected, which saves the city money at the landfill,” Denver Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said.

“Neighborhoods with cart-based trash service have less illegal dumping issues than those with dumpster or manual service.”

However, people living in the neighborhood near Alameda Avenue and Federal Boulevard believe the bins have only escalated their problems.

“There is so much trash just lying in the alley,” Hughes said.

There was a significant amount of trash piled up along the sides of the alley. Items included newspapers, alcohol containers, clothes, fireworks, insulation and other raw garbage.

One chemical container was found with the label “DANGER: Corrosive. Causes eye and skin burns. Contact may cause permanent eye damage. May be harmful by contact or breathing vapors. Harmful or fatal if swallowed.”

The city of Denver is responsible for alley maintenance. According to Denver Public Works, they are swept twice a year. The city will respond to requests for alley cleaning on a complaint basis.

“Given that there are more than 5,000 alleys, we do encourage residents to do their part to keep their alleys clean,” Kuhn said.

Hughes said he used to scoop up trash behind his home but is no longer able to because of a recent knee surgery. He has started calling 311 to ask for help.

“They’re usually pretty good at within a couple days coming out, but they only load up the furniture,” Hughes said.

He said they always leave the piles of trash behind.

“It’s like they only go so far, but they don’t want to go the extra mile to make it right with us,” he said.

Denver Public Works agreed to send an inspector to the neighborhood to check the ongoing issues and see what can be done to prevent further problems.