NORTHEAST OHIO -- Listeria, a potentially deadly food-borne bacteria, was found in high levels of fluids dripping from garbage trucks onto neighborhood streets, a Channel 3 News investigation found.
The bacteria has a mortality rate of 20 percent and, according to microbiologist Roger Pryor, of Accra Labs in Twinsburg, it poses an especially significant threat to the elderly, children and to pregnant women.
Channel 3 news collected samples of fluids spilling from garbage trucks in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Maple Heights and Brooklyn and had them tested.
In addition to listeria, Accra Labs found very high levels of bacteria and low levels of salmonella.
Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek says homeowners in the Collinwood neighborhood he represents often complain about the filthy stains left behind by city trash haulers.
"It becomes a major problem because you don't know what's in it," said Polensek.
Some experts say a single drop of listeria is enough to make you sick. Children playing ball in the streets can easily come in contact with the contaminated fluid.
A number of cities, including Cleveland, are turning to newer container trucks which are not supposed to leak fluids.
But Channel 3 news found newer trucks leaking fluid in both Cleveland and in Maple Heights.
A simple drain plug, which we found at a local store for less than $2, can be an easy fix. But service directors in several communities say the plug can pose a hazard to workers collecting the garbage.
"That juice collects in the back of the packer and, eventually, splashes out onto our employees on the street," said Ronnie Owens, the commissioner of the division of waste collection in the Cleveland Department of Public Service.
Cleveland and other communities are in the process of purchasing the newer container trucks which they believe, with minor maintenance, can contain fluids inside the truck.
"With our new automated system, and with the enclosed truck, there shouldn't be any garbage juice leaking out," said Owens.
Owens suspected a bad seal was to blame for the truck Channel 3 News found leaking.