A video captured this summer at the Alexandria Recycling Drop Off Center on South Whiting Street shows trash around the center and along the fence and down the hill.
The video was taken by Advocates for Clean and Clear Waterways. The fence belongs to the Virginia Department of Transpiration and is torn apart and rolled back. At the bottom of the fence, there's a homeless camp. 7 On Your Side cameras found the same issues.
This comes on the heels of 7 On Your Side and the environmental group exposing trash issues in May at a different drop-off center on Eisenhower Avenue.
"The biggest problem here is the fencing. As you see there is a bathtub it looks like there is Styrofoam, plastic, everything and actually walking right here you will see the first problem we have a fence opening, and with this fence opening you see the trash going right down the hill that goes right down in the watershed that feeds right into the Potomac," said Caleb Merendino with Advocates For Clean & Clear Waterways in May.
The city cleaned up the Eisenhower Avenue mess and repaired a fence plus put up a plastic barrier to keep trash from flowing through the fence. It also started documenting through photos of its efforts to keep its recycling centers clean.
So why, months later, is there an issue over on South Whiting?
"For all of our facilities, we do have a three times a week rotation where the staff is out cleaning those facilities, collecting waste. We just see a lot of public dumping there, unfortunately," says Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson.
Mayor Wilson declined to speak to us on camera during our first investigation in the spring but is now saying he appreciates 7 On Your Side exposing the issue.
The city did clean up the trash on the site of the recycling drop off center.
"Honestly we appreciate the reports we received on that and we will work with VDOT to get that resolved," adds Mayor Wilson.
VDOT says after 7 On Your Side reached out to the State it visited the South Whiting site and removed the trash from its property and fixed the fence.
Here's what they sent us:
Crews visited the site on Aug. 3 and removed the trash and fixed the fence. However, this issue involves more than just VDOT. Our right-of-way is only a tiny strip between the shopping center and the sound wall. We do not maintain the roads in cities or towns, but because I-395 merges at that location, we own a small strip next to the exit ramp within the limits of the City of Alexandria.
We are working with the City regarding litter cleanup around their recycling center. Some of this trash ends up being overflow from the recycling center and blowing through the fence holes. Despite having just fixed the fence, people were witnessed last week already scaling the fence again. Part of the activity there is due to homelessness, and part is because it is a cut through to the sidewalks on Duke Street.
The City of Alexandria would be the one to take the lead on helping to provide support for homeless individuals that frequent that location, as well as cleaning up litter around their recycling center. We are exploring the option of removing the fence completely.
Thank you for letting us know about this issue as it has already yielded results not only in terms of initial cleanup, but also in working with our partners in the City of Alexandria to develop a comprehensive solution to this complex issue.
Senior Public Affairs Officer | Virginia Department of Transportation, Northern Virginia District
I-Team Reporter Scott Taylor confirmed VDOT repaired the large hole in the fence but 15 feet down from that opening he discovered another opening where people and trash are still coming through next to the Recycling Drop Off Center.
VDOT tells the I-Team it's exploring the option of removing the fence completely.