Monday, July 23, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Some people don't like to pick up after themselves. They leave messes for others to clean. Ideastream's David C. Barnett thought you'd like to meet some Northeast Ohioans who do our dirty work.
There are many ways to make a mess. Some people leave shoes or sweaters or glasses lying around the house. Others toss fast food wrappers into the street. And then there’s what Rover does in the back yard.
MARCY SZUCS: Sometimes the grass will be folded and you won’t see it the first time.
Meet Marcy Szucs. She’s got an eye for what dogs leave behind…and makes a living picking it up. You might wonder how she get into the field?
MARCY SZUCS: Actually, my training is in Early Childhood
Ok…so, it wasn’t a straight line of career development from pre-school to what she does now. In 2003 after working at several other jobs, she had a revelation.
MARCY SZUCS: We have two dogs that make lots and lots of messes. I was scooping one day and I went, “Hmm, if I have to do this, surely there are other people with dogs that have to have it done. And there’s people who can’t do it, don’t have the time to do it, or just don’t want to do it.
And Scoopidy Doo was born. The company has customers in three counties now.
After doing her rounds, Szucs deposits what she’s found in a white trash bag which she leaves by the garage.
Then she leaves another plastic bag on the customer’s doorknob.
MARCY SZUCS: I put in a note that tells them what time we got here, that we scooped, and we leave a biscuit.
A real, live biscuit. Is that to insure future business?
MARCY SZUCS: Absolutely. There’s a method to our madness (laughs)
The streets of Cleveland have a different sort of clean-up problem --- chewing gum.
MIKE CONWELL: We used to do a count in a square block of pavement, about three by three, we would count the number of gum spots. You would average about a hundred per square.
Mike Conwell is an Operations Manager for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance --- a group devoted to keeping city streets clean and safe. He’s got a theory about gum offenders.
MIKE CONWELL: It’s the same thing as smokers do with a cigarette. They don’t see it as litter. They see it as: “Let me get rid of my gum so I can enjoy my day.”
Who you gonna call? The “Gumbuster”.
Brian Perkins has been busting gum stains for about a year and a half. He uses a device that’s perched on a rolling cart. It contains a cleaning solution and water which is discharged as an intense spray of steam that quickly dissolves the dark smudges on the sidewalk. Perkins says the machine is fast and efficient.
BRIAN PERKINS: it’ll take 900 pieces of gum up an hour and use just under two liters of water doing it.
It sure beats sending out an army of workers to scrape all the gum up by hand. Mike Conwell tries to look on the bright side.
MIKE CONWELL: If people weren’t using our downtown, I wouldn’t have gum issues. And I would prefer to have the lived-in feeling of the downtown --- This creates opportunities for other people to be employed.
One last example of a mess that someone else cleans up for us, takes place far from the city streets.
A moving van is parked outside of a suburban Akron home, and a crew of guys is slowly loading it up with pieces of a family’s life --- such things as a rocking chair, a bulletin board with a photo of some folks fishing, and a small, stuffed animal toy. Lee Surgener says it’s all getting tossed
LEE SURGENER: It’s going to the Dump. It’s contaminated. Come in and I’ll show you.
He leads the way through the small, middle class house.
LEE SURGENER WALKING THROUGH HOUSE: This is about a thousand square feet…
Surgener is founder of Ohio Bio-Hazardous Recovery. The company specializes in the clean-up of everything from mold to meth labs. The manufacture of methamphetamines is relatively inexpensive, and can be a very attractive source of revenue for criminals. Decontaminating these illegal drug operations also can be profitable.
LEE SURGENER: We’re getting calls daily for clean-ups, not just in Akron, but throughout the entire state.
This house was raided by police about a week ago, and the former residents were arrested. It’s a wreck now…stuff strewn everywhere by the drug task force…hunting for meth chemicals.
LEE SURGENER: People will hide chemicals in cold air returns.
Stuff like muriatic acid and ammonium nitrate. When they’re combined with some over-the-counter medicines and cooked, they leave a poisonous residue that adheres to surfaces, creeps down into the vents on stereo systems, and infiltrates clothing. Plus, those chemicals can be explosive. We pause at a room with toy trucks, a catcher’s mitt, and plastic dinosaur figures, scattered across the floor.
LEE SURGENER: This is the biggest thing when it comes to meth, right here. It’s about the kids. The toys are contaminated. Lives are turned upside down over that drug.
Once all the objects have been removed, Surgener and his crew will come in wearing haz-mat suits and spray the house down with a cleansing foam to make the place habitable once again. A more difficult cleaning job is to wipe what he’s seen in a house like this from his memory.
LEE SURGENER: You have to let go. Just like a job --- at the end of the day, you forget about it.
It’s dirty work, cleaning up other people’s mess.
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