PublicSource circulated a survey to Wilkinsburg residents about questions or concerns they have in their community. Among the responses, there were multiple residents who said street cleaning hadn’t been completed all year long. We asked about it for them.

While Wilkinsburg Borough did suspend its street cleaning on Nov. 20 for the winter season, the borough says there were no unanticipated service disruptions over the last year. 

To address the confusion about street cleaning, borough Manager John Antinori said he plans to resume service come spring with more transparency about its schedule. 

Why is street cleaning important?

Joseph Whitworth invented the first street sweeper in 1843 following the Industrial Revolution in England, which brought a more developed society but also lots of trash. 

Here are three ways street sweeping helps:

  • It contributes to flood prevention because the garbage cleared doesn’t clog stormwater systems;
  • reduces litter and plastics from entering water supplies; and,
  • leaves streets cleaner and safer for residents to enjoy the outdoors.

Generally speaking, the Department of Public Works cleans every street in the borough twice a month, but there are a few exceptions. Some less-trafficked streets may only get cleaned once a month. Also, if a given street’s cleaning date lands on a holiday, the borough skips the cleaning instead of rescheduling it. 

Parked cars can also make it too difficult to clean a street properly, Antinori said. If piles of leaves are in the way, a street may also be skipped. 

“We can’t just suck those up with the street cleaner,” Antinori said. “The machine’s not made to handle that, as big as it is.” 

Currently, limited information about the borough’s street cleaning schedule is available online. 

“I’m going to make sure, when it restarts in the spring… we’ll make sure we communicate that out to folks and have it in a permanent place on our website,” Antinori said.

If residents have questions, they can reach out to the borough’s Department of Public Works with the phone number 412-244-2959. Antinori also said he’s happy to talk with residents. 

“I encourage any resident who is concerned about service to get in touch with my office,” he said. 

Wilkinsburg spends $40,000 a year on street sweeping: about $27,600 on labor, $4,500 on fuel and $8,000 on repairs and maintenance, according to Antinori. The borough employs one worker 21 days a month for street cleaning. Its street sweeper cleans about 200 tons of leaves and debris each year. 

Until the spring, Antinori said, “if there’s no snow, they may do some additional cleaning, but it won’t be regularly scheduled.”

Matt Petras is an independent writer and educator based in the Pittsburgh area. He can be reached at matt456p@gmail.com or on Twitter @mattApetras.

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This story was made possible with financial support through the American Press Institute.

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