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The Trash Was Historic, Too

Workers Pull an All-Nighter to Clear Spectators' Detritus

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009

The day after America's biggest yard party was all about the cleanup.

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Washington trash trucks hauled away at least 130 tons of garbage after the inauguration of President Obama, with more to go. National Park Service workers picked up almost 100 tons on the Mall and near the White House.

Because most trash cans had been removed for security reasons and a record-breaking crowd gathered downtown, the mountain of rubbish left behind was of historic proportions.

"More than any Fourth of July, more than any event we've seen," Park Service spokesman William Line said.

The detritus included handwarmer packets, bottles, food, newspapers, blankets, gloves, coolers and a table or two, in addition to items bought from street vendors.

"They left behind Obama hats, Obama bags, Obama socks," said Mafara Hobson, spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). "People left behind a lot of trash. A lot of it was the vendors along the parade route, too."

About 110 city workers were assembled downtown at 6 p.m. Tuesday, ready to begin their all-night cleanup. But with crowds still thick in the streets, the hardest work had to wait, said Nancee Lyons, a Department of Public Works spokeswoman who watched some of the overnight cleanup.

"There was so much trash left behind. Piles and piles," Lyons said. "When all those people were there, you didn't realize how bad it was. But once they left, we saw the work ahead."

City workers on double and triple shifts tackled the peaks, determined to get the garbage out of downtown before the morning rush hour, Lyons said.

"People left so many of their personal effects. Blankets, sleeping bags," Lyons said. "Then the places where the vendors were, some of them just left their tables behind."

Some of the mess was attributed to a dearth of trash cans, which some folks complained about.

Lyons agreed there were not enough. She said that because of "security issues," many receptacles had been removed, and the agency was not allowed to put extras out.


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