Years of illegal dumping in alleys in the tiny Village of Washington Park, Illinois, has choked off automotive traffic and made it virtually impossible for Ameren Illinois trucks to gain access to its natural gas and electric facilities.
The massive amount of debris – mattresses, tires, roofing shingles, even TVs – has created a huge headache for the Village. For Ameren Illinois, the presence of the trash in its right-of-ways has slowed crews responding to natural gas calls or repairing downed power lines after a storm. The company has even resorted to using its own heavy equipment to push the debris out of the way.
With Washington Park scheduled for routine tree trimming, Ameren Illinois Vegetation Manager Rick Johnson and his team knew they needed to do more than just trim and remove invasive plants in the community. They needed to take matters into their own hands to solve the debris problem.
With the help of Paula Nixon, community relations liaison for Ameren Illinois, the company partnered with the Village of Washington Park and one of Ameren's diverse suppliers, Bill Mason Landscaping. Under a pilot program, funded by Ameren Illinois, Bill Mason Landscaping removed the debris from the alleys and right-of-ways and placed it in a designated area. Once or twice a week, public works employees for Washington Park properly disposed of the materials at a nearby landfill.
Overall, about 200 dump truck loads of debris were removed. Now that the right-of-ways are accessible, tree trimmers are safely clearing paths to the company's natural gas and electric equipment.
"In the long run, this saves Ameren Illinois money and resources because we now have ready access to our facilities," Johnson said. "I'm proud of the partnership we have with the Village of Washington Park and the community has really shown us their appreciation for removing this debris."
The results of this pilot program have been quite the site to see for local residents. What was once an eyesore has become a line of sight for all to look from one end of an alley to the other. It has given many in the community access to their property from the alleys for the first time in years.
"There is a great sense of pride in this neighborhood now," said Washington Park Mayor Rickie Thomas. "Everyone is so happy. When the workers are out here, citizens are bringing them water, asking them if they need anything to eat. The community wants the right-of-ways clean. But we have a lot of outsiders coming in, dirtying up the community, dumping. The citizens are grateful that the Village of Washington Park and Ameren Illinois joined together to get this trash removed."
"What may have once taken us weeks to trim can now be completed in a matter of a day or two because all of that debris has been removed," said Richard J. Mark, chairman and president of Ameren Illinois. "Even more importantly, we will be able to get to our gas and electric equipment much more quickly and safely.