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Encyclopedia Dubuque

www.encyclopediadubuque.org

"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.




GARBAGE COLLECTION

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GARBAGE COLLECTION. Fear of CHOLERA and the uncertainty of what caused it led efforts to clean up the City of Dubuque in 1866. Barrels were first placed in ALLEYS for kitchen waste collection. Sanitary Commission officials visited homes to inspect all buildings to see how much cleaning was needed. (1)

On June 12, 1866 city officials decided to supply all residences in Dubuque with barrels. These were to be used for the collection of all kinds of garbage. A time for the barrels to be picked up would be established when they were delivered. (2)

In August of 1866, the responsibility of cleanup fell directly on the property owners. (3)

           Notice--All persons living on Main Street, from 11th Street to the
           lower market, and from Main to Locust on 1st, are requested to clean
           the gutters in front of their residence, shops or stores on Friday of
           each and every week, and remove the same at their own expense.
           On and after the first of September, the city scavenger will be dispensed
           with and all persons will be required to remove offal at their own
           expense.
                                    William Herman
                                    Sanitary Marshal, Dubuque

All property owners did not attack the garbage cleanup with the same vigor. (4)

            We noticed that there is a good cholera belt on Main street
            between 6th and 7th. The gutter in front of some of the
            business houses is filled with a pool of water three or four
            rods in length, which is fast being converted by a flock of
            geese into one of the most filthy holes imaginable. However
            pleasant it may be to the proprietors to see the fowls splash 
            and dive into the water, it can hardly tend to improve the 
            sanitary condition of our city, and we hope the nuisance is 
            removed immediately.

The note of sarcasm/humor in the previous editorial took on a tone of pleading within days. (5)

            A Nuisance--All the filth and garbage of creation appears to
            have accumulated on Main Street, and the condition of the
            gutters in many places is actually disgraceful to our city
            authorities. Can't something be done to get rid of the nuisance? 

Notes of public "nuisances" continued to be announced in the newspaper, perhaps to encourage those responsible to clean them up. The following editorial appeared in 1872:

            A Dirty Alley--The attention of the street commissioner, sanitary
            officer, or deputy marshal is directed to the horrible condition
            of the alley in the rear of the NEW JEFFERSON HOUSE on Clay
            Street. If ever it wanted cleaning that time is now.  The stench
            arising is enough to knock down a Digger Indian, or a respectable
            hog. Have the corps de shovel give that neglected alley some 
            attention. (6)

As the iced-over river was used by meat packers for the disposal of offal, it was used by some in 1872 for the disposal of decomposed prairie chickens. Members of the DUBUQUE ROWING CLUB protested that carcasses and other offal were being thrown near their boats around 4:00 a. m. (7)

On June 11, 1873, a notice appeared in the Dubuque Herald that anyone responsible for "nuisances" in alleys or outhouses were responsible for cleaning them up. Failure to take the responsibility would lead to arrest and the problem's removal billed to the person in custody. (8)

The board of health directed the efforts in 1873 to clean up "nuisances." In July the WATER DEPARTMENT pledged to the board of health sufficient water for cleaning foul sewers, gutters, and streets. The work of "purifying" the the east and west streets was started immediately and continued throughout the summer. Disinfectants were purchased and distributed by the health officer. Private property needing cleaning would have it done at the owner's expense. Those engaged in cleaning privies were given special notice: (9)

           Parties engaged in the cleaning of vaults, and removal of night soils
           will be summarily dealt with if found employed in such occupations
           before midnight, or in the use of improperly covered carts and utensils
           or if found depositing filth outside of the assigned localities.
           Wells in general use having privy vaults contiguous to them and showing
           evidence of contamination will be closed and the parties prohibited
           from obtaining water therefrom. (10)

In 1881 and 1882 E. E. FRITH COMPANY INC. had the city contract for garbage removal. (11) Citizens were informed in June 1890 that they were required to provide barrels or casks for their garbage and that throwing it on the ground would lead to arrest and fines. (12)

In 1891 the editors of the Dubuque Daily Herald commented that garbage wagons traveling the streets at night made the city smell like "a large rendering establishment." When the barrels of rotten garbage were not covered, the foul stench coming from them was "enough to knock even a vault (outdoor toilet) cleaner down." The paper stated that "if a person slept with his window and mouth open, if he awakes in the morning at all, it will be with a worse taste in his mouth than if he had swallowed a Limburger cheese factory." (13)

In 1896 the Dubuque city council ordered that all garbage be thrown in the middle of the river as soon as the water froze. (14)

The board of health in January 1897 ordered that all garbage had to be stored in receptacles and that it was illegal to throw it into alleys of streets. (15) In February 1897 Walter McMahon was awarded a contract to establish a dump on the levee below Jones Street. (16)

In 1912 the city council was forced with reviewing the manner in which garbage and sewage were handled. In 1911 the decision had been made to bury all garbage and sewage. This material had previously been dumped into the river until a War Department order outlawed the practice. The council now considered burning the material as the only safe and sanitary system. (17)

Dissatisfaction with the E. E. Frith Company became an issue in 1922. At the time, the company under a contract signed in 1918 was paid $40 per day for collecting city garbage with an additional $15 given during the hot summer. City officials claimed they were powerless to keep garbage removed at all times. (18)

The E. E. Frith Company continued to hold the city contract for garbage collection with the exception of May 1, 1929 through September 16, 1929 when the city collected garbage. At that time, the company received a five year contract. (19) In 1934 Eugene T. FRITH announced that beginning in 1935 city residents would no longer see horse-drawn garbage collection wagons. These were being replaced by modern motor trucks. The E. E. Frith Company also collected dead animals at a total cost of $18,000 annually or 43 cents per person. Collections were made twice each week with congested areas being given three visits from April 1 to November 1. From November 1 to April 1, congested areas were visited twice and other areas only once. (20) Wagons were covered by canvas and driven to the company's reduction plant four miles north of the city. Paper and glass were removed by hand. Metals were removed by a large magnet. The remainder was placed in a large cooker. After processing it was dried and made into fertilizer. (21)

A change in the method of disposing of refuse was announced in 1949. Plagued by large numbers of RATS in the city, the city council ordered City Manager Albin Anton RHOMBERG to follow through on a recommendation of Dr. Albert J. Entringer, the city health director. The landfill system of refuse disposal replaced the dumping on CITY ISLAND. Refuse under the new plans would be packed down in trenches and covered with dirt. Garbage and other refuse was to be stored in ratproof cans until collected. (22) The other idea that was rejected was burning trash. There were many problems involved with this procedure including AIR POLLUTION. (23)

In March, 1973 by a 3-1 vote, with one abstention, the Dubuque City Council agreed to let the city staff obtain a $7,500 purchase option on the Leonard T. Smith farm 1.5 miles southeast of Peosta. Soil tests could determine whether it could be used as a landfill. The cost was $1,350 per acre. The "no" vote came from C. Robert JUSTMANN who believed the county should purchase the land or that the city should condemn the land for the public good and then negotiate a purchase price. (24)

The use of city island as a landfill ended in August, 1976 when the dump on the island was closed and the Dubuque Metropolitan Landfill west of the city along Highway 20 was opened.

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Landfills have been described as giant plastic bags. The lowest layer consists of clay on which a plastic membrane, piping, and other materials are placed before trash is dumped and compressed. Designed to keep harmful material from entering the environment, landfills use liner system to prevent trash from spilling into local watersheds. Underground drainage systems capture rainwater that soaks into the landfill and then carries harmful chemicals. In Dubuque, the water is sent to the Dubuque Water and Resource Recovery Center for treatment. The Dubuque landfill is also required to annually test groundwater for possible contamination and check the condition of the liner system. One known future problem is the failure of the landfill liners. The Environmental Protection Agency expects all liners will eventually fail, but this could take several hundred years. While many the the harmful chemicals by then might have leached from the ground and been trapped with the water, others will need to be addressed. (25)

The eventual closing of a landfill presents problems and potential. If additional land nearby was not available, it would be expected that opening a new site would result in controversy. This happened when the landfill west of Dubuque was opened. Some cities have been forced to ship trash to other sites. Post-closure costs include continued monitoring for environmental contamination. Jackson County's future costs were estimated at $543,000 over thirty years. This was considered cheap because the landfill contains few industrial materials--unlike Dubuque. Potential uses for landfills include the development of recreational areas. Landfill "mining" for precious minerals was also a possibility. (26)

In 1991 the Dubuque Metropolitan Solid Waste Advisory Board approved spending $231,000 on two pieces of equipment--a Caterpillar used to smash waste before dumping it in the landfill and a power screen used in the final step of the yard-waste composting process to remove large material and contaminants from the compost. (27) Plans for a household hazardous waste collection day in the fall of 1991 received a funding commitment by the Dubuque Metropolitan Solid Waste Agency. The estimated cost of the one-day event was estimated at $75,000 because the material collected had to be shipped out of state for processing. The state of Iowa had no hazardous waste disposal sites. Money for the project came from the local landfill tipping fees. (28)

Encouraged by the city staff, city council members in 1991 supported the burning of 1,500 tons of waste paper annually and then mixing it with sludge at the wastewater plant. The proposal was expected to reduce by up to 20% the amount of waste material going to the landfill and could save the city an estimated $1.5 million in fifteen years. (29)

The Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency (DMASWA) and Dubuque County in 1993 sponsored a tire recycling program funded by a $30,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The Iowa Legislature chose nineteen counties to participate. The program offered free tire recycling in place of the usual $1.75 for each passenger tire and $2.75 for each truck tire brought to the landfill. The fees paid for transporting the tires to a shredding site where they were converted to "crumb rubber" used in coal-fired generators to produce electricity. (30)

In 1995 the Dubuque Metropolitan Solid Waste Agency applied for and received a $100,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to start a household, hazardous waste collection center. Once the grant was received, the Solid Waste Agency formed a partnership with the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE and the Dubuque County Environmental Task Force. Task force members would mentor interns from the University of Dubuque's environmental studies program. These students would staff the collection center and handle its telephone hotline once the center was established. (31)

In 1997 the center's opening was scheduled for late spring or early summer. County residents would be able to drop off anything labeled toxic, corrosive or reaction free of charge. A private contractor would take care of the disposal. Also planned was a mobile collection unit that would go into neighborhoods or county communities. The object was to make collection easily accessible and frequent. Iowa's first toxic cleanup day had been held in 1986 with only three held during the following years. This was not considered often enough. (32)

Faced with the possibility of losing BFI Waste Systems as its largest customer in 1997, the landfill cut its waste-dumping fees nearly 30% to $28.00 per ton. Since the landfill received no tax-payer support, reductions had to be made. The choice was to eliminate the composting program. The landfill charged $28.00 for every ton of yard waste it accepted, but it cost $45.00 to produce a ton of compost. Dubuque's landfill was the only one in Iowa at the time to give away compost. (33)

The solution came from New Melleray Abbey. The monks wished to produce compost on their land to use in their organic farming program. They volunteered to take the landfill's yard waste. Eventually the monks planned to sell 20% of their compost to local organic farmers. (34)

Iowa law in 1993 stated that cities had to reduce their landfill waste by 25% before the end of 1994. That had been achieved by recycling and yard waste composting. The reduction, however, was not enough to meet the 2000 deadline by which cities had to reduce their landfill waste by half. The solution appeared to be solid waste composting and increased recycling. It cost the city $30 per ton for Environmental Recycling Company to take recyclable materials. The city paid $45 per ton for trash to go to the landfill. ERC officials estimated that the company was catching about 40% of the material and the amount could be doubled without an increase in cost. Composting meant constructing a regional municipal composting center which could reduce waste going to the landfill by 75%. At such inside composting centers serving several counties heat, humidity and water decomposed food and paper products. The work had to be done indoors because of the smell. (35)

In January 1998 the Dubuque City Council approved an amendment to the housing code that prohibited garbage containers being stored in front yards or on porches of multi-unit properties. Containers stored on the side of buildings had to be screened if they were in view of the street. (36) "Operation Merry Mulch" provided for the disposal of natural Christmas trees on normal collection days for one week. Citizens and vendors could also transport trees to the landfill where a charge would be made of $2.00 per car or $4.00 per truck depending on weight. The estimated collection of 2,000 trees would yield 30 tons of compost. (37)

In April of 1998 Solid Waste Management Supervisor Paul Schultz proposed a pilot program as a solution. Under the program, the city would provide selected multi-family properties and businesses with large plastic carts for residents to store their trash. Each cart which resembled a dumpster would be the equivalent of about three trash cans. The monthly rate of collection would remain the same. Participants would agree to try and recycle 28 percent of what they threw out. The new carts and equipment for semi-automated pick-up were to be ready by August. (38)

In 2002 the city restricted each residence to one bag or can. A "pay-as-you-throw" refuse program was begun to encourage recycling. The rate for residential refuse collection fell from $8.20 per month to $7.20. The benefits lasted less than a year. By July, 2003 due to increased gas prices and tipping fees, the cost had risen to $7.60. Despite this, Dubuque ranked the lowest in cost among Iowa's largest cities with Ames in the lead at $20.50 and no recycling program. (39)

In 2010 the Dubuque Metropolitan Solid Waste Agency participated in a test of the Environmental Management System which was directed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The program's aim was to force local leaders to be proactive in their environmental efforts by setting annual goals in six key areas of landfill management--recycling services, greenhouse gas reduction, water-quality improvement, yard waste and composting management and environmental education. The plan replaced older goal-setting guidelines which used five-year plans. In 2016 Iowa had fifty landfills of which only thirteen continued to use the DNR plan. In addition to the annual goal-setting, a report had to be filed and two audits were completed annually. (40)

In October, 2017 construction to make the landfill in Dubuque larger was nearing completion. Managed by Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency, the expansion will be cell number nine. The 10-acres are expected to have enough room to hold more than 440,000 tons of trash, up to 60-years worth. The construction began with a compacted clay base, and then a vapor barrier that would keep any moisture from getting down into the ground water, and then some rock and chewed up tires, and some drainage pipes, and another layer to act as a filter. The $3.2 million project was funded through fees paid at the landfill and loans from Dubuque County. (41)

Officials in 2018 estimated that the present landfill would be able to take additional trash until 2100.

Developing the landfill into a revenue generator was proposed in April, 2018. As trash decomposes in the landfill, a gas mixture of methane, oxygen, carbon dioxide and other trace elements is created. The DMASWA paid about $2 million for a system that collects and destroys most of that gas. About $100,000 is paid annually to maintain and run the system. While a number of options exist, the most feasible way to make the landfill produce revenue may be to convert the gas into gasoline equivalents useful to the transportation industry. The gas generated at the landfill in Dubuque is believed equal to more than 1 million gallons of gasoline equivalent. Another option might be to use the gas to generate electricity. The idea has a ten to fifteen year time frame with the first goal being to find a partner to develop a method to clean and convert the gas and then sell it. (42)

In July, 2017 the city council voted 7-0 to approve a $2.2 million grant application to the Federal Transit Administration. This would help pay for a proposed $7.5 million project to convert methane captured at the Dubuque landfill into CNG to fuel twelve JULE transit buses. According to city staff, methane had been captured and burned off since 2011. Adding a CNG-fuel station would help the city reduce greenhouse emissions and remove an estimated 61,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air annually. (43)

Landfill officials reported in December, 2018 that they had chosen a company to compress methane collected at the landfill for use as biofuel. Prior to this development, methane from deep inside the landfill was drawn to the surface through fifty wells covering sixty acres. The methane was collected into one pipe and a flare which burned away the gas. (44)

Under the new agreement, Trillium, a company owned by the truck stop chain Love's, would pay $300,000 annually in royalties to the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency to take and clean the gas for later use. Trillium would keep the sales revenue while paying an estimated $68,000 of the $100,000 it would cost DMASWA to operate the gas collection system. Trillium officials stated that one of the largest opportunities for the gas would be in natural gas trucks operated in California. (45)

A new initiative aimed at reducing waste was introduced in January, 2019. With a $33,000 grant issued by the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency, three initiatives including "food rescue" were introduced. Paul Schultz, president of Green Dubuque, explained that the equivalent of three semi loads of food-related materials were taken to the landfill daily. This food could be donated to food banks or composted. The third initiative would be reducing the use of single-use checkout bags at grocery stores. The goal of the program would be to keep 200 tons of wasted food from the landfill through donation or composting, find beneficial uses for an additional 200 tons of non-compostable materials, and reduce the use of single-use checkout bags by 300,000. Initially, 70 businesses or institutional members with 500 individuals would commit to reducing what they threw away, track their progress, and report the results to Green Dubuque. (46)

In 2018 the Chinese government ban importing most paper, plastic and metal waste due to pollution. The county had been the world's leading recyclable buyer before establishing new standards of 99.5% purit7y for materials to be accepted. This was a standard recycling plants in the United States had been unable to meet. In 2019 the Solid Waste Agency board of directors voted to suspend the recycling program for shingle recycling citing a lack of market interest. A contract with L. L. Pelling Company of North Liberty which once used the shingles to mix with asphalt had lapsed. Old road asphalt was easier to use than the work it took to grind up shingles. The result would be shingles going into the landfill along with other solid waste. Glass recycling was expected to be resumed in July. (47)


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Source:

1. "Be Prepared," Dubuque Herald, June 12, 1866, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660612&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. Ibid.

3. "Notice," Dubuque Herald, August 12, 1866, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660812&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "Clean the Streets," Dubuque Herald, September 7, 1866, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660907&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "A Nuisance," Dubuque Herald, September 13, 1866, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660913&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. "A Dirty Alley," Dubuque Herald, August 21, 1872, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18720821&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. "A Nuisance," Dubuque Herald, September 12, 1872, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18720912&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. "Notice," Dubuque Herald, June 11, 1873, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18730611&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

9. "Board of Health," Dubuque Herald, July 30, 1873, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18730730&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

10. Ibid.

11. "Caught on the Fly, Dubuque Daily Herald, June 23, 1882, p. 4

12. "Notice," Dubuque Daily Herald, June 10, 1890, p. 4

13. "The Stink of Death," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 11, 1891, p. 4

14. "Committee of the Whole," Dubuque Herald, December 5, 1896, p. 8

15. "Notice From the Board of Health," Dubuque Herald, January 8, 1897, p. 8

16. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, February 2, 1897, p. 8

17. "Council Session to be a Tame One," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, September 17, 1912, p. 12

18. "Many Complain on Garbage Removal," Telegraph-Herald, January 3 1922, p. 11

19. "Garbage Collection Wednesday Morning" Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, April 30, 1929, p. 20 and "Frith Gets City Garbage Contract", Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, September 8, 1929, p. 15

20. "Old Style Garbage Wagons, Horse Drawn, Will Soon Pass Out of Picture in Dubuque," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, September 23, 1934, p. 12

21. Ibid.

22. "Ratproofing Act Approved," The Telegraph-Herald, December 6, 1949, p. 20

23. Kruse, John, "Time at Our Disposal," Telegraph Herald, August 19 2018, p. 1A

24. Fyten, David. "Hesitant Council OK For Landfill Site," Telegraph Herald, March 13, 1973, p. 1

25. Kruse

26. Kruse, p. 6A

27. "Panel OKs $231,000 for Waste Disposal," Telegraph Herald, May 2, 1991, p. 3A.

28. Gilson, Donna.l "Dubuque May Have Waste Collection Day," Telegraph Herald, May 30, 1991, p. 3A

29. Arnold, Bill. Thumbs Up for Incineration," Telegraph Herald, November 8, 1991, p. 1

30. Arnold, Bill. "Tires Roll Into Landfill," Telegraph Herald, January 26, 1993, p. 3A

31. McDermott, Brad. "Partnership to Establish Hazardous-Waste Facility," Telegraph Herald, February 2, 1997, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970202&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

32. Ibid.

33. McDermott, Brad. "Landfill Cuts Cost, Compost," Telegraph Herald, September 20, 1997, p. 1. Online" https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970920&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

34. Ibid.

35. "Christmas Trees Soon to be Tons of Compost," Telegraph Herald, January 12, 1998, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19980112&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

36. Eiler, Donnelle. "Landfill Need Solution Could be Composting," Telegraph Herald, December 13, 1993, p. 1

37. Wilkinson, Jennifer. "Program Might Trash Need for Amendment," Telegraph Herald, April 22, 1998, p. 1.

38. Ibid.

39. Kittle, M. D. "Refuse Costs Piling Up," Telegraph Herald, July 24, 2003, p. 1A

40. Jacobson, Ben. "Dubuque Landfill 1 of a Few to Adopt Iowa Management Plan," Telegraph Herald, July 6, 2016, p. 3A

41. Descorbeth, Shirey. "Landfill Expanded to Fit More Trash in Dubuque County," KWWL.com, October 23, 2017, Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/36663630/2017/10/23/landfill-expanded-to-fit-more-trash-in-dubuque-county

42. "Dubuque Landfill Looking to Turn Gas into Cash," KWWL.com April 3, 2018. Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/37865707/2018/4/3/dubuque-landfill-looking-to-turn-gas-into-cash

43. "CNG-Fueled Bus Fleet," Telegraph Herald, July 6, 2017, p. 3

44. Fisher, Benjamin. "Landfill Finds Gas Buyer," Telegraph Herald, December 22, 2018, p. 3A

45. Ibid.

45. Montgomery, Jeff, "Initiative Aims to Reduce Items Headed to Landfill," Telegraph Herald, January 12, 2019, p. 5A

46. Ibid.

47. Yager, Alicia, "Dubuque Landfill Suspends Shingle Recycling," Telegraph Herald, March 23, 2019, 3A