BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Illegal dumping is a major problem in Baltimore, but one woman is crying foul over what she calls “unfair” enforcement.
Gemma Medile told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren she received a $500 citation in the mail for illegally dumping trash in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
“I called up and told them, ‘This must be a mistake,’” Medile said.
But it wasn’t.
Authorities provided Medile with photos of green L.L. Bean packaging found in a large pile of trash on Freeman Street, one block off Patapsco Avenue. It had her name and address on it.
Medile said she remembers throwing it in her trash can 15 miles away at her home in Severna Park about two months ago, but has no idea how it got to Baltimore.
“It may have gotten attached to a trash truck and blown off somewhere,” she said. “If I were guilty, I wouldn’t be calling the city trying to understand their process and how it ended up in this pile of furniture.”
She said she has not visited Baltimore in at least a year and has no ties to the city.
A 2018 Baltimore City report estimates 10,000 tons of waste is dumped illegally in Baltimore City annually — and shows hundreds of dumping citations in that fiscal year in the district covering the Brooklyn area.
“We have 90 cameras in hot spots throughout Baltimore,” said Deputy Housing Commissioner Jason Hessler. “We take a strong stand on dumping in this city. I can’t speak to [Medile’s] particular case as to how that piece of trash got to where it was.”
Hessler said anyone who feels a citation is not accurate can request a hearing. “There is due process to challenge a citation,” Hessler said.
Medile is taking time from her job to deal with this. She notes there’s a fee for the hearing and wishes Baltimore would take action on a case like hers — which she feels is clearly not illegal dumping — without that added time, expense and frustration.
“I hope Baltimore city can resort to a more fair way of fighting the dumping problem,“ she said. “I hope anyone who receives a citation for trash that is not theirs is willing to call and willing to fight so that others don’t have to go through this.“
According to other published reports, people have complained of citations for trash they believe is simply not theirs.
Medile is not cited for dumping the sofa, mattress and other large items found on the lot next to the package with her address.
Neighbors in that community are fed up. Several told WJZ they have to live with the filth and the city told them it would be weeks before the trash on Freeman Street has been picked up.
A week after Medile received her citation, the garbage remained where it had been — on that vacant lot.
Medile also said with the ransomware attack on the city keeping some systems offline, she incurred extra time and expense to send a certified letter — before the deadline — requesting an Environmental Control Board hearing.
If she did not request such a hearing and failed to pay, Medile’s fine could double.