A Colorado Springs woman who has been living for six months amid the fallout of trash from Intel's construction site off Garden of the Gods Road may be getting some action -- but only after a month of griping to company officials who have been slow to address the litter.
The flash chip manufacturing company has spent the past six months refurbishing the abandoned Rockwell building.
Suzanne Tulien, who lives directly behind Intel's new headquarters on Garden of the Gods Road west of Interstate 25, said the litter originating from Intel includes construction workers' lunch trash -- including plastic baggies and half-eaten sandwiches that her dogs have found and gotten sick from eating. Plastic buckets and other refuse have also been mixed in, including surgical booties and other non-construction-related items, she said. The problem has been especially noticeable in the spring and early summer months.
Early this week, Tulien reported a "whole new batch of trash" littering the area around her home in the Chelsea Glen neighborhood and along the city-owned Sinton Trail and nearby ditch.
"There's a slew of surgical booties; there's trash stuck in bushes, trees, ditches, all over the hillside, at the bottom of my backyard. It's ridiculous," she said. "With the huge winds and the [recent] rains, much of it has probably traveled all the way down to Memorial Park by now."
Workers in booties
Tulien said she began calling Intel representatives regularly about a month ago to complain about the problem, and to ask them to clean it up.
The company recently conducted a trash cleanup effort a mile away, in the Holland Park neighborhood. But Tulien said she was told by the company's community relations director that Intel didn't want to dispatch a cleanup crew to her neighborhood because neighbors had told them that dangerous rattlesnakes plagued the area.
"They said they didn't want their employees to get bit," she said.
Tulien is unconvinced. She walks the trail regularly with her dogs and has never encountered a snake in the area. "There's too much going on over here, too much activity," she said.
Shawna Pugmire, a volunteer with Colorado Reptile Rescue, concurred. Some rattlers, Pugmire said, have been spotted in Garden of the Gods Park and Palmer Park, but "you don't find them very often in town or where there's human population."
Tulien said company representatives also balked at the request to clean up the trash, blaming it on the construction workers who were at the site.
"I don't know what kind of construction workers are wearing booties," she said. "My comment was: Who hired the construction people? It's their property, and even if it is the construction workers, [Intel is] ultimately responsible for them."
Being good neighbors
This week, Intel media relations manager Deanna Sauceda initially claimed that the company was hesitant to dispatch a cleaning crew to clean up the Chealsea Glen neighborhood, also citing the danger of snakes.
"Neighbors told us that there were poisonous snakes and discouraged us from proceeding with cleanup," she said. "Snakes, when they come out of hibernation, can be quite dangerous."
However, Sauceda later claimed that crews have cleaned up the area along Sinton Trail at least once a month,
"We are making every effort to make the area clean and pleasing and safe for our neighbors and our employees," she said.
When construction workers are hired, they are told that if they are caught littering, they are warned a first and second time, she said. The third time, they will be fired, though Sauceda said no employee has been fired for littering.
"We don't have trash police, to tell you the truth," she said. "We have people during construction who are cleaning debris, but the reality is that trash and debris are part of the construction process."
Sauceda said that at least one neighbor has written a letter to Intel, expressing excitement that the company has relocated there. Once construction of the building is completed, Sauceda said, all of Intel's dumpsters will have lids. Meanwhile, they are open and with high winds, trash is bound to leave the site, she said.
"We were very aware that construction can be messy and the long-term solution is that we meet with our neighbors and respond to neighborhood meetings."
Getting a little lax
Karon DiPentino, the code enforcement director for Colorado Springs, said Intel has not been cited for littering. Usually, particularly at construction sites, the city attempts to work with the property owners to clean up litter or other debris, she said.
Ultimately, however, the city considers the property owner where the trash ends up as responsible for removing the litter. DiPentino said she was unaware whether Colorado Springs has recently cleaned up any trash along city-owned Sinton Trail.
"We would be happy to respond to the construction site and talk to them," she said of Intel's reports of traveling trash. "Sometimes [companies] get a little lax and need a reminder of their civic responsibility."
In 2000, the city responded to 1,845 citizen complaints of unsightly trash, and code enforcement officers self-initiated 1,975 additional complaints.
If a property owner refuses to remove litter or respond to a citation, the city contracts the cleanup and bills the property owner for the work, plus a 25 percent surcharge, DiPentino said. People who are caught littering are subject to a $150 fine.
"People think that one can or wrapper doesn't make a difference, but when have a couple thousand of them, it really adds up," she said.
If you want to report a litter problem in Colorado Springs, call the city code enforcement department at 444-7890 or Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful at 577-9111.