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‘Living in a landfill’: Overflowing garbage causes concern for McCall Gardens residents

A northeast Calgary community called for action after what they said was illegally dumped waste surrounded their shared garbage bins, causing health and safety concerns for residents.

Large abandoned items either littered the ground in the community or take up majority of the space within the bins, leaving little to no room for actual household trash.

None of the dumpsters in the community are acceptable, which became even more apparent when the heatwave started, Kara Downer, a McCall Gardens homeowner, said.

“People have pets and they’re throwing actual feces and open food [into the bins], and it’s unbearable like it’s like you want to puke every time you go outside,” Downer said.

“A lot of the stuff that’s being left is hazardous too, and then I see kids playing around the dumpsters. There’s broken glass all around. The debris from them actually gets out and floats around so there’s like this trail of garbage all over the neighbourhood. It’s just repulsive.”

A brown three-part couch has slowly been removed as residents took it upon themselves to get it inside the dumpster. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The McCall Gardens community has 200 residents.

A blend of owner and renter-occupied fourplex and fiveplex units and the absence of a condo board has further complicated the process.

Downer was told by the City’s waste management department to solicit her neighbours and if there was enough interest, they would hold a town hall meeting and be willing to move the bins if everyone put money together to build a structure.

“I don’t feel that that should be put on me,” Downer said.

Looking for the City’s help

Some residents contacted the City of Calgary a number of times regarding the issue, considering it more than just an eyesore, but also a health and safety issue.

Randall Tate, another homeowner in the community, has contacted 311 twice in the last three weeks.

“I have to be very careful when I’m walking my dog anywhere near the garbage, because there’s always garbage that spills out of the containers, even after the garbage trucks have come,” Tate said.

“There’s things like broken glass, construction materials and things that can be hazardous to my dog … I’m worried about my dog stepping in something or eating something.”

The community standards need to be maintained at a higher level, Tate said.

“Waste & Recycling Services has been working with the residents for several years to provide appropriate level of service to their complex and making adjustments to address their challenges,” the City said in a statement.

“One of those challenges is not having a board or property manager to work with.”

Actions to resolve the issue

While there is discrepancy on how the City has been involved up to this point, the issue is now being addressed.

“The Calgary Community Standards Peace Officer for the area is aware of the ongoing issues and has recently attended the location to determine the current infractions,” Bradley Johnson, Inspector with Calgary Community Standards, said.

“Moving forward this location will be proactively patrolled to identify any rising concerns or potential matters with waste build up. As always, we encourage all community members that view / identify illegal dumping should call 311 to report and ensure this issue is curbed in an efficient and quick manner.”

Garage rail tracks were disposed of into a dumpster after being abandoned on a path outside of an elderly residents home. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The City is aware of the issues at the property and understands the concerns and frustration from the residents of this complex, Parnell Legg, Leader of Business and Operations with Waste & Recycling Services, said.

Containers must be in a safe and accessible collection point for residents and our staff, which were decided on at a town hall where approximately 140 residents were engaged.

“Due to the dense area, lack of space in the complex and safety considerations, compromises were made by everyone on the placement of containers,” Legg said.

“Our staff only collect what is in the containers not the large items placed around them. Residents can take large bulky items like mattresses, furniture, debris, etc. either to a community clean-up or to the landfill.”

Legg said the city knows debris is being placed beside the containers. They don’t know if it’s individuals inside or outside the complex who are not disposing of these large items correctly.

“When this happens with other multi-family complexes, it is the condo board that coordinates ways to rectify these issues,” Legg said.

The complex has the correct number of containers and pickup schedule, with the lids being removed to allow for large items to fit in the garbage to prevent dumping on the ground, Legg said.

According to one resident, the city did attend the area and tackle the refuse problem just prior to the story being published.