FOX 29 Investigates: South Philadelphia dumping

- Theresa Price has lived at 25th and Carpenter in South Philadelphia for 56 years. New homes are being built while others are being renovated. Theresa loves her neighborhood but one thing is bothering her; the scene at 25th and Washington just a block from her home.

FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser went to investigate.

The subject of her disgust was a huge half block long pile of construction debris that sat there for weeks. There was a pile of broken up wood pallets, a pile of sand, cold patch asphalt and lots of broken up concrete and pavement, piled five to six feet high. It looked more like a construction yard then a city street.

"It shouldn't be there. This is a respectable neighborhood. We all get along," she told FOX 29. 

"It's a total disregard for people who live in that neighborhood. I'm sure they wouldn't want people coming into the neighborhood where they live and dumping material there," said Lt. John Stanford of the Philadelphia police department.

The debris covered the street and the sidewalk here. It forced children to walk out into the street near traffic to get around the piles.

"You can't use a public street as a staging area, particularly when you have kids and people. Pedestrians that are trying to walk through that neighborhood to get to school or work," Lt. Stanford added.  

Theresa explained that in addition to the piles of debris being a safety concern and an eyesore, they made a short supply of local parking spaces even shorter.

"They can't find a spot lets say right here in front of their door. They're going all the way to maybe South Street, 20th street just to find a parking spot," she explained.

So FOX 29 Investigates began to look into the problem. We found construction equipment with the name general asphalt paving company right across the street along with pipes, metal plates and other construction supplies, along with a shipping container. within hours. We also found a general asphalt paving backhoe operator dumping more debris on the piles so we followed him

"Unbelievable. That's bold. He's just dumping it like this is part of his project," said City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

We showed South Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson our undercover video of the backhoe operator as he drove five blocks up Washington avenue to 20th street, then 10 blocks north to 20th and Lombard where a general asphalt paving crew was digging a hole in the sidewalk. The crew loaded the backhoe and back it went to 25th and Washington.

"It''s disturbing, now obviously these guys are illegally dumping debris, material inside a neighborhood, inside my district . It's illegal, totally unacceptable," he told fox 29. 

We also showed the video to Philadelphia police who investigates dumping on city streets.  They watched as the backhoe made the round trip. It went on all morning. 

"Disturbing, disgusting that somebody, a contracting company would be doing work in one location and then dumping that in somebody else's backyard," Lt. Stanford said.  

We also contacted the Department of Licenses and Inspections to find out if General Asphalt Paving was allowed to store construction equipment and construction debris on a public street. We were told there are no permits or licenses to place the debris on a city street.

"We'll make sure our Neighborhood Services Unit is investigating this. As they are-- they're looking into this. making sure we work with L&I regarding their license," Lt. Stanford added. 

"We're trying to rebuild that neighborhood, rebuild our communities. We don't need a private company dumping illegal material because they want to save a few dollars," Councilman Johnson said.

Finally, we called Austin Meehan, the owner of General Asphalt Paving,he admitted the material and equipment had been there for almost five weeks and his company was using the city street as a temporary "staging area" for various "complex" construction projects around the city.

"If you go with their explanation that they were using that block for a staging area," we asked Councilman Johnson. "No, unacceptable, unacceptable," he said.

Meehan did not dispute that he had no permit or permission from the city. He said the construction debris came from his projects at 12th and Sansom and near the University of Pennsylvania. "I'm not denying it," Meehan told us. "Nobody complained to us. If they had we would have removed it. we always clean up." 

"What should they be doing with that stuff," we asked the councilman. "Taking it to the proper dump site. Getting rid of the material as they're supposed to," he explained.

Our investigation also revealed that since 1995, General Asphalt Paving has received more than $67 million in city contracts with the Streets Department, the Water Department, recreation, schools and even Philadelphia Gas Works. Meehan admitted he wouldn't dare store construction debris and equipment in the neighborhoods where he was doing work.

"You wouldn't do it in Center City so don't come do it in Point Breeze, in South Philadelphia," the councilman added.

Meehan said it was "standard industry practice" to store construction debris on a city street somewhere and clean it up later when he finished his projects. he said in a statement that it saves time, "minimizes the cost of the project" and "reduces the amount of disruption" caused by construction.   

"If they're doing work like this, they shouldn't be doing work for the City of Philadelphia. at all," Johnson said.

"It's something we won't tolerate," Lt Stanford said. "We'll definitely be investigating, working with L&I l to make sure these people are held accountable for their actions."  

A week after FOX 29 investigates started asking questions and video taping the growing piles of debris, work crews suddenly appeared and began cleaning up. on Monday October 31st, half the material was removed. a day later, they remainder was carted away. a few days later they carted away their equipment.

"when we find these types of cases, their business privilege license needs to be revoked," the councilman added.

Meehan refused our request for an on camera interview saying, "I don't want to be in the limelight. The street is now clear."

In a statement, Meehan said "We take our responsibility to the local community, to our clients and to the environment very seriously....we regret any negative impact on the quality of life for residents in the vicinity." 



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