Nearly 14,000 Needles, Tons of Debris Cleaned Out of Santa Ana River Camp


When crews began removing debris, needles and hazardous waste along the Santa Ana River Trail where hundreds of homeless had been camping for the last few months, officials knew it was going to be a big job. 

Now, they have some eye-popping figures to back that up. 

According to Orange County Public Works, crews working on the cleanup removed 404 tons of debris, 13,950 needles, and 5,279 pounds of hazardous waste (human waste) the Orange County Register reported

A video published by the county on YouTube, showed how much of a difference it made just one month after the cleanup began. 

More than 700 people living in the encampments located in the heart of Orange County were moved to temporary housing in nearby motels and shelters while officials work on a more permanent solution for their needs. 

During the cleanup, some advocates spent up to 12-hours per day working to help the homeless move out of the riverbed camp. 

The bike trail cleanup began after residents complained about the encampment, which prompted officials like Todd Spitzer to take action to address the growing problem. In an interview with the Bill Handel Show in Feb, Spitzer says he originally tried to move people out of the riverbed voluntarily. 

"I was in that riverbed with City Net, my contractor, moving people since July of last year. And how many stepped up and wanted to get out of the riverbed? 251 over eight months."

Despite the county's best efforts, hundreds of people remained in the encampment and refused to leave. When the county went to court to try and make the riverbed subject to trespass, the court shut them down. 

A brief court battle between civil rights organizations and the county finally settled the issue. The county would move and pay for motels for the remaining homeless population. 

"Between Feb 14th and Feb 25th,  we cleared out 752 people," Spitzer said. 

The cleanup isn't over with quite yet. A county spokesperson says crews plan on removing 2 to 3 inches of soil along the bike trail, trim the trees, and refurbish the trail itself, by and applying a slurry seal. 


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