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Illegal Dump Sites Meet Their Match In Joe And John

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Rebekah Zook
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90.5 WESA
Joe Divack (L, wearing safety vest) and John Erickson (R) clean up an illegal dump site in Beltzhoover as part of the Volunteers for Allegheny Cleanways DumpBusters program.

Joe Divack attributes volunteer John Erickson’s “all-star” status to his attitude.

“It’s his sense of humor," Divack said. "And he really likes doing it. He might not always admit it."

Joe and John have teamed up together for Allegheny Cleanways’ Dump Busters program for four years, with no signs of stopping any time soon.

Together, they have disposed of an incalculable amount of trash, debris and other waste that lies illegally in Pittsburgh’s natural spaces and neighborhoods. On a good morning, the two men remove between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds of trash.

Neighborhoods left cleaner from Joe and John’s handiwork include Homewood, Hazelwood, the North Side, West End, Fairywood and a few others. Allegheny Cleanways keeps a map of illegal dumpsites in Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs.

Divack said the biggest misconception about their work is that debris is limited to a small area. Sites are typically several thousand feet wide, he said.

One such project involved hauling 3,000 tires up from the bottom of a ravine, so they could be recycled properly.

“It seems the prime spots are where hillsides are, there’s not much of a population and [people] can, without many people noticing, throw it over the hill and it can roll quite a distance,” Erickson said. “The only option is to go down after it and bring it up from where it originated.”

Divack has been a volunteer, as well as a board and staff member of Allegheny Cleanways, for six years and Erickson has been volunteering for four years. Divack said Erickson has been an invaluable asset to the Dump Busters team, and can’t seem to get enough of Saturday site clearing.

“Do you remember when you were in grade school, and you had recess? This is just like that but for adults. It’s that much fun,” Erickson says.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer Dump Buster can visit Allegheny Cleanways online.