Union Pacific clears trash dumped near Berkeley railroad tracks, for now

A burgeoning trash pile was cleaned up last week hours after Berkeleyside sent Union Pacific an inquiry about it. We now have the scoop on how to report dumping along the tracks.

A popular dumping ground: the railroad tracks at Camelia and Cedar streets in West Berkeley. Photo: Citizen reporter

Last week, Union Pacific Railroad hauled off a garbage pile on its property that was a steadily growing eyesore in West Berkeley, but neighbors worry it’s a temporary fix.

A local resident got in touch with Berkeleyside recently because dumping has been an ongoing issue for years along the railroad tracks, which run parallel to Second Street. Some of the discarded items at Cedar and Camelia streets remained untouched for more than a year. The resident said more attention should be paid by Union Pacific to its Berkeley land, perhaps in partnership with the city and police, to keep the trash at bay.

The cleanup effort Wednesday followed an email inquiry from Berkeleyside at 2:20 p.m. that day about the dumped trash along the tracks at Cedar and Camelia. Later that same day, much of the mess was removed. A spokesman for the company, Justin Jacobs, said he didn’t know what exactly prompted the attention but confirmed there had been “a coordinated effort between Union Pacific and our contractors” to handle it.

After the crew hit Cedar, most of the garbage was gone. Still on the scene at the end of the day, however, was a 5-gallon bucket of what appeared to be motor oil. And there was still extensive trash at Camelia and the tracks.

Before: the railroad tracks at Camelia and Cedar streets in West Berkeley. Photo: Citizen reporter
After the cleanup: A significant difference at Cedar Street and the railroad tracks. Photo: Citizen reporter

Jacobs said Union Pacific has several full-time maintenance crews and contractors “working continuously” in Northern California because so much material is “constantly discarded on our property and along the railroad tracks.” He said the railroad tries hard to oversee its land, but that it can be a challenge because it has 32,000 miles of track in 23 states.

“It’s kind of a hard issue to keep up with when people trespass on our property and dump their trash,” he said.

How quickly trash pickup takes place depends on how many crews are available and how long their existing to-do list is, or whether a third-party contractor may be needed instead.

Jacobs said California can be particularly difficult to keep tidy due to the state’s “homeless situation and transient situation.”

He noted that dumping on private property does come at a cost to Union Pacific, and said reports about dumping from local residents and businesses are appreciated.

Still trashed: Cedar Street and the railroad tracks. Photo: Citizen reporter
Still trashed: Cedar Street and the railroad tracks. Photo: Citizen reporter

Jacobs said Union Pacific works with communities, local organizations and municipalities to address dumping as it occurs.

He said it’s important for the public to report dumping promptly by calling the Union Pacific Response Management Communication Center at 888-877-7267. That’s the number to report hazardous materials, illegal dumping, injuries, stalled vehicles and more.

Dispatchers at the communications center will pass dumping reports on to maintenance teams who keep a list of hotspots to monitor, Jacobs said.

If calls to dispatch don’t solve the problem, Jacobs said the public affairs office is another option. For Northern Californians, the contact is currently Francisco Castillo Jr. at 916-789-5957 or 916-200-6248. Castillo can be reached by email, too.

Read more from our periodic Ask Berkeleyside series. Have a burning question for Berkeleyside? Let us know.

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior editor of news. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.