Project to remove trash from river sparks controversial development

As spring rolls around, residents start to gather debris from their yards and places in the streets so that they can later make light of what had been intended to be a rubbish dump.

“We were just farmers,” said Velasco. “Now our lives have completely changed.”

Velasco lives in the heavily misted El Barajas neighbourhood on the other side of the drainage canal that bisects the district. El Barajas had never been mentioned as a possible home for a landfill because of its semi-rural character and relatively small population. But back in 2001, residents were forced to accept a dirt pit at their sprawling trash collection center. Because the dump was so close to El Barajas, the contamination was leaking into the canal.

Since the fire destroyed the heap of trash, the neighborhood has become a magnet for hundreds of the area’s well-off residents and the thousands of non-residents who work and live in the area. There are five or six garbage dumpsters, with the gates and fences locked. Many of the trucks are from the trash centers that the redevelopment agency has demolished.

Alberto Ols and his wife Anna share their El Barajas home with two young kids. They have been living here for 20 years and won’t leave.

An antenna from a decommissioned garbage dump connects this old neighbor to a wifi network.

But as the neighborhood has started to fill with younger families, the trash trucks have made roadways overcrowded, adding to the dust and pollution in the area. And now El Barajas is home to many of those trucks.

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