Polk County trash pickup delayed, could become public health issue

A contract dispute between Republic Services and Polk County has left residents with a potential health problem.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WTSP) -- Neighborhoods all over Polk County have a trash problem. Garbage cans are overflowing and junk lines the streets.

“It makes the whole neighborhood just look like crap,” Stephen Ward, who’s been living in a new home in South Lakeland for less than a week, said. “When I first moved in here, I said, 'oh gosh. I hope this isn't how it is?’”

Some people in Polk County say their trash hasn’t been picked up since before Hurricane Irma. They say when crews with the company Republic do come, they only get some of it. Neighbors worry having trash rotting in the street could make people sick.

“The kids could even play in the trash, because of how many days it's been sitting there,” Blanca Lopez said.

The county has called in backup. It's paying two other companies to do the work they say Republic should be doing. Those companies will take over full-time, but not for another week when Republic's contract expires.

“It's a simple matter,” Bill Beasley, the deputy county manager for Polk County, said. “Get the garbage off the ground. That's all we want you to do.”

The county blames Republic for the complaints they're getting, an average of 140 every hour. Republic says it’s doing the best it can.

“We do not believe they needed to call in for backup at all,” Chris Jones, Republic’s general manager for Polk County, said.

It appears the county and Republic are caught up in a contract dispute, and the taxpayers are caught in the middle of it. They just want their garbage picked up before this trash problem becomes a public health problem.

The county says bringing in those two other companies early will cost thousands of dollars. They say they're considering suing Republic for that money once their contract is up.

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