The District's growing piles of garbage--now buried under blankets of snow--are not simply casualties of the weather, one council member said.

Trash collection throughout the city has been halted for almost a week because of last Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the snowstorms. But it is the city's meager and ailing fleet of garbage trucks that perpetually stalls collection schedules, said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

"This failure to pick up trash has not been sporadic, it has been regular," Graham said. "The real story here is that trash pickup is regularly delayed, and this is not just because of the snow."

Graham said 17 of the District's 55 trash trucks are out of service.

"A third of their inventory is broken down," Graham said. "There are 42 trash routes all over the District, and they have 38 trucks. That means there are four routes without a truck, and we regularly have our trash collection missed."

The District's fleet of garbage trucks is twice as old as the fleets in most other cities, said Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

Nationwide, most city trash trucks are about five years old. In the District, trucks are 10 to 12 years old, she said. Although the Public Works Department has been trying to strengthen the fleet, some vehicles are going to be out of service at any given time, whether for preventive care or repair, Grant said.

"Delays have been documented because of an older fleet, yes," Grant said. "But we did have the majority of our trash trucks working last week."

Last week, trash delivery was on schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday and part of Thursday, until the season's second snowfall, Grant said.

Over the weekend, garbage workers were on snow alert. Regular trash collection was scheduled to begin today, but now that will be delayed because each snowstorm adds at least another day's wait for a return to regular pickup schedules, officials said.

No date has been set for resumption of trash collection.