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Puerto Rico town declares state of emergency over garbage collection

By on July 5, 2017

SAN JUAN – Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo Márquez signed an executive order Wednesday to declare a state of emergency in his municipality due to problems it faces in collecting trash regularly, an issue that was denounced by several citizens on social media.

With the order, the mayor intends to speed up the auction and bidding process to rent six garbage trucks.

“We only have two trucks to collect trash from 35,000 homes and 80,000 residents. That is humanly impossible [for a truck to cover each sector weekly]. Assuming responsibility of the reality at hand, which becomes a health emergency, today, the first day of the fiscal year of my administration’s budget, we have allocated funds to rent some garbage trucks,” Márquez told Caribbean Business.

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Although the ideal number would be 10 to 12 garbage trucks to keep the collection constant, the mayor believes that renting six vehicles will solve the problem for the time being.

Márquez acknowledged that the situation affecting Toa Baja residents is “unacceptable,” but stressed that the problem worsens when citizens throw garbage on the streets.

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“There is plenty of debris in the Levittown ‘marginal’ [frontage road]. It is due to a collective disorder. These are the areas the municipality has cleaned on several occasions…. If we collect [garbage] and there are unscrupulous people who keep throwing it, there we see the results,” the official declared in reference to the state of the road.

Márquez said the municipality picks up debris every three months, but if an emergency pickup is needed, residents may contact the town’s solid-waste-management office to address the issue. This cleanup, he said, would have a “low” cost.

The problems with garbage collection are not new. Márquez said they were able to solve the situation at the beginning of the year with help from neighboring municipalities.

“The municipality’s situation has been like this since we took over City Hall on January 9, with barbaric deficiency, and we really didn’t have the money to fix garbage equipment that was left damaged. We are doing everything humanly possible,” Márquez said after a press conference in Levittown.

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