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Toronto’s flood garbage proving a tall order for collection crews

Flooding from torrential rain caused the closure of the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto on July 8, 2013.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Toronto is struggling to keep up with massive volumes of garbage from last week's flood, and new roadblocks – including this week's heat spell – mean it may be this weekend before the entire city is cleaned up.

After last week's record rainfall flooded basements and buildings all over Toronto, the city arranged a special garbage collection for last Saturday.

"We anticipated that in three days, we would have it all picked up," said Jim Harnum, general manager of solid waste management for the City of Toronto. Now, he said, it's looking like collection won't be completed until Saturday evening or Sunday morning, at the earliest.

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The city's west end, which was hardest-hit by Monday's 126 millimetres of rainfall, has been slowest to clean up, Mr. Harnum said. Forty-five extra crews have been in Etobicoke this week to help clean up after flooding, he said, but still, the area is only about 30 per cent cleaned up. This weekend, he said, 210 additional crews will be on Etobicoke streets to complete the cleanup.

The staggering volume of garbage has been the biggest obstacle, Mr. Harnum said. On an average day, the city collects about 100 tonnes of waste. Over the course of the weekend, he said the city collected 1,500 tonnes.

"Some addresses had 200 bags, a couch, a bed, some lumber, some drywall," he said. "One street took a crew of two all day just to do the one little small street."

He added that, although garbage crews should have passed through all parts of the city at least once since Saturday, residents have been placing garbage out for collection in waves.

"We're still getting some people calling in saying we haven't picked up, and we know we've been there, we've picked up. But people are putting more stuff out."

Another obstacle has been the heat, and the toll it has taken on staff.

"If it was 23 degrees instead of 33 degrees, staff – their efficiency drops off dramatically when you get to that weather," he said, adding that an ambulance had to be called for at least one garbage worker suffering from heat exhaustion.

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Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong echoed Mr. Harnum's words on the weather, and asked residents to be patient.

"Our staff have been working through 30, 35 degree temperatures for the last five days," he said.

Mr. Minnan-Wong added that another complicating factor is that residents are placing construction material at the curb, such as drywall and lumber, which the city does not collect.

He said the city is planning to waive its standard $50 permit fee for placing large commercial construction waste bins on the road to help homeowners who must hire private firms to collect such materials.

With a report from Elizabeth Church

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About the Author
National Food Reporter

Ann Hui is the national food reporter at The Globe and Mail. Previously, she worked as a national reporter and homepage editor for theglobeandmail.com and an online editor in News. More

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