Talkin’ Trash

The old Fairbanks city dump was in use from the early 1920s until its closure at the end of 1962. It was located along the South bank of the Chena river behind the dog park and the Curling Club, near the Carlson Center. Trash was deposited on top of the ground and was periodically burned to reduce the volume. Over the forty years of continual use, the old city dump became a real eyesore and health hazard to the residents of Fairbanks. One of the consequences of this open dumping near town was the invasion of Norway Rats, also known as “Wharf Rats.” Many old-timers here still remember when living with rats was a fact of everyday life in Fairbanks:

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner July 29, 1954


No Pied Piper is needed in Fairbanks to lure the rats away with cheery music. Although two weeks ago the city dump, off lower Second avenue was teeming with rats, there are only a few sick ones still scurrying feebly around the garbage and scrap today. Thousands upon thousands of rats are still there but they are dead.

Last week Warfarin rat poison mixed with corn meal was distributed around the dump area in plainly marked poison dispensers. The poison was first put in on Monday. Two days later much of the corn meal and poison had been consumed. Last Saturday the rats at the city dump were dropping dead everywhere.

The rat massacre was the result of work done by three cooperating agencies working to better the health and welfare of this community. They are the city, the Alaska Department of Health and the U. S. Public Health Service.

Authorities figure that one rat in town will cause $20 in damages each year. Here it must be even higher. Every time you see a rat scurrying across the road, you are seeing $20 or more lost to the community.

So far about one ton of poisoned food in bait boxes have been placed around the garbage dump. It is estimated the number of rats killed at somewhere between five and then thousand.

The poison has been purchased by the city and was mixed with the cornmeal at the city garage in a concrete mixer. Householders and businessmen wishing to rid their private property of rats will soon be able to purchase the poison and bait mix from the city together with instructions for use.

Killing the rats, the garbage dump is only the first step in ridding the area of pests. The dump must be made sanitary by killing all the rats and the rat harborage within the whole district eliminated before the rats will be under control.

Note: After the rats were killed, trenches were dug to bury all the trash at the old city dump, which was permanently closed in 1962. The new sanitary landfill, still in use today, began accepting our trash. After more than 50 years, it has become a colossal mound located along the Tanana River at the extreme south end of town. That man-made mountain contains all the debris of daily life in the Tanana Valley. It is also the final resting place for our old historic buildings and other infrastructure we don’t want to use or maintain anymore.

The words “sanitary landfill” and “solid waste” are now the proper terms for “dump” and “trash.” However, despite the euphemisms and modern containment methods, Fairbanks still has an immense trash problem. But at least our city is no longer overrun with rats! This trashy history nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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