Positive COVID tests within New London’s Public Works Department could lead to delays in garbage pick-up

New London

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH)– Garbage and recycling bins may sit a little longer on some sidewalks in New London. The pandemic has caused some staffing shortages.

Wednesday trash pick up is happening pretty much as usual in New London despite having more than half of the regularly scheduled solid waste staff out because of positive COVID-19 tests.

“Everybody’s challenged right now,” said Resident William Kimball.

He noticed his trash and recycling did sit on his sidewalk a little longer than usual last week.

“It’s a little slower but trash hasn’t been backing up or anything,” said Kimball.

Up until the holidays the New London Public Works Department only had two COVID positive cases, one in March and one in October.  But last Tuesday, five of the 11 solid waste workers currently on the job came down with COVID and another one on Friday. 

This posed a staffing challenge because many hold special licenses to drive the recycling and trash trucks and run the transfer station. Fortunately, workers with those same licenses in the Public Works Department’s highway and parks divisions climbed on board to help.

“I can’t explain the gratitude and admiration I have for our staff being so flexible,” said Public Works Director Brian Sear.

There are five trash and recycling routes in the city with a total of ten thousand stops a week.

Sear wants to assure residents that garbage and recyclables will be picked up on the day they’re supposed to be.  He doesn’t want to see it piled up and left for the next day which would just cause more work for the limited crews. 

He says it may be collected later in the day than usual. One resident told News 8 she saw her garbage picked up at night.

Brian Sear says after 9/11, President Bush considered Public Works a first responder service and he’d like to see that now.

“If we were considered that and put in the pool for vaccinations it could have stemmed some of this,” said Sear. 

He’s hoping some of his employees will be healthy enough to return to work next week.

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