February 10, 2008

City Sues Man For Canceling Trash Service

Examiner
Tamara Barak Aparton
January 29, 2008

SAN CARLOS (Map, News) - A man who claims to have reduced his waste to nearly nothing out of concern for the environment now faces a lawsuit from San Carlos for canceling his garbage-collection service.

Eddie House, 53, says he was shocked when he was served with a lawsuit Sunday at his Cedar Street home.

The lawsuit, filed by San Carlos Deputy City Attorney Linda Noeske in San Mateo Superior Court on Jan. 22, seeks a permanent injunction forcing House to maintain garbage service. City officials are also seeking to recoup from House the costs of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims House broke the city’s municipal code requiring all residential, commercial and industrial properties to contract with Allied Waste for pickup at least once a week — a standard requirement in most cities, San Carlos Deputy City Manager Brian Moura said.

House says he stopped his service with Allied Waste about a year ago after realizing that his garbage cans were nearly always empty.

“It’s just me and my dog, so I don’t have a whole lot of garbage to begin with and I recycle everything,” he said.

House recycles paper, metal and plastics, regularly hauling them in his pickup truck to a recycling center and collecting the refund, he said. What little backyard waste he generates is ground into powder by his wood chipper and food scraps are either pulverized by his garbage disposal or eaten by his dog. House’s larger items are either sold or given to people on Craigslist, he said.

“I don’t understand a city ordinance that requires you to fill up a can. That’s downright foolishness,” he said.

Moura said House’s lack of garbage service was brought to the attention of city officials after neighbors complained that House was causing foul smells by burning his garbage.

House acknowledges that the fire department was called to his house several times, but says that each time he was simply burning firewood.

House has made ongoing complaints to city officials over the apartment building next door, which he claims was built too close to his home and generates litter and parking problems. He said he fears that being sued by the city is retribution for being a “sore thumb.”

Moura denied the city’s action was personal.

“We don’t go out looking for these things. When the city does take code enforcement action, it’s usually something that’s brought to our attention by neighbors,” he said.

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