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City removes trash build-up, discarded needles from under BU Bridge

The Boston University Bridge, connecting Boston and Cambridge. The accumulation of waste from a former homeless encampment, including used needles, has been removed from under the BU bridge.

A build-up of waste that had accumulated from a homeless encampment under the Boston University Bridge — reportedly including used needles according to Boston 25 News — has been removed.

The piles of debris were originally so high it took city maintenance crews two days to finish cleaning, according to Boston 25 News.

BU Police Chief Kelly Nee said BUPD will now coordinate with the Boston Department of Conservation and Recreation and the City of Cambridge to secure the area.

“I think what will happen now is that whatever is BU property, we will do our best to secure that to prevent this encampment from growing again,” Nee said, “and then DCR will watch their swath of property, and Cambridge will watch theirs.”

Nee said the area became an encampment for some people who were experiencing homelessness and she and the department hope to make the appropriate recovery services available for them.

“It’s all about providing services to the homeless and to the chemically dependent population, and when they have no place else to go and they find something the word gets out a little bit,” Nee said.  “So we just want to make sure those folks get the services they need, and we want to make sure that our community gets the services it needs.”

As for the safety of students, Nee said BUPD did not receive any reports of students being endangered by the encampment.

BUPD Lieutenant Daniel Healy said bridges across Boston are attractive locations for homeless encampments because their structures provide shelter from the elements.

“If somebody is outdoors, for example, underneath a bridge structure or some type of a superstructure with there is cover,” Healy said. “The Bowker Bridge, we’ve seen before — that’s down near Kenmore square, and [Massachusetts] Turnpike as well.”

Healy said the design of the BU Bridge, in particular, allows homeless residents to shelter from the wind.

“I think the BU Bridge gives them some cover because it has sort of a giant wall face so you can kind of break the wind,” Healy said, “and so it provides some break from the weather for them.”

Caitlin McLaughlin, a spokesperson for the Boston Public Health Commission, wrote in an email that Boston provides kiosks for residents to properly dispose of used needles and more will be created in the future.

“Right now, the city has seven kiosks across the city, providing a safe place for all residents to dispose of sharps.” McLaughlin wrote. “As Mayor Walsh just announced, the city plans to install ten more kiosks, bringing the total number of city-owned sharp containers to seventeen.”

McLaughlin wrote any resident who finds a used, discarded needle in a public place such as a sidewalk should immediately call the City of Boston at 311 so they can deploy a cleanup crew.

“The Mobile Sharps Team will find and collect the needles,” Mclaughlin wrote. “The Mobile Sharps Team is made up of four dedicated staff members that pick up discarded syringes. In addition, there are eight outreach workers assigned to Newmarket Square area to connect people to recovery services that also pick up discarded syringes.”

Amanda Kong, a freshman in the College of General Studies, said while she thinks individuals should be responsible for their own trash, BU should do all it can to keep the area clean and free from debris.

“I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to keep your area, your environment, clean,” Kong said. “But I mean, if BU should have more involvement [in cleaning], sure, why not? I don’t see an issue.”

Quinn Chappelle, a freshman in CGS, said that she thinks people are more likely to leave trash in public areas, such as under the BU bridge, when they feel like there will not be a consequence.

“When they feel like they’re unchecked and no one’s watching, people just do what they want,” Chappelle said. “They don’t really consider the repercussions besides like, this is my immediate desire to get rid of this thing.”

Francis Okyere, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks the university and the City should work together to clean up the area around the BU Bridge because both entities are impacted when trash piles up there.

“It is under the bridge, so it should be taken care of by BU,” Okyere said. “The city also should do something about it because the City of Boston as a whole is affected by this.”

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