Cleanup of heroin enclave along Conrail tracks in Kensington delayed

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

Work to clean up the notorious heroin encampment at the Conrail tracks in Kensington has encountered a delay.

Conrail workers were supposed to start the cleanup Monday, but city officials said they heard at the last minute on Friday that the railroad needed more time to get ready. The work involves clearing tons of debris and dirty needles strewn across the Gurney Street railroad gulch, clearing vegetation that provides cover for drug activity, and putting broken concrete under bridges where homeless heroin users have traditionally camped.

Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis said he was disappointed by the delay, which he called a “bump in the road.”

DiBerardinis said he hopes to agree on a new start date for the cleanup soon. Conrail has until the end of July to start the work, according to its agreement with the city on the cleanup plan.

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“Folks have waited a long time for this,” DiBerardinis said. “We’re ready to go, and we’re going to urge them and push them to start as soon as possible.”

DiBerardinis says the city and its partner organizations were ready to begin doing their part to address the needs of the homeless heroin users being forced out of the area. They’ve been planning to launch an outreach station nearby that will offer medical care and drug-treatment services to people battling addiction with the help of Prevention Point Philadelphia and other organizations. That resource hub will open once the cleanup begins.

Conrail has already started to do some of the work on the plan to secure the tracks, installing new fencing where there were gaps. Outreach teams from the city and Prevention Point Philadelphia are also  visiting the tracks daily to offer treatment and housing to people who need them.

Conrail did not immediately return requests for comment on the delay.

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