Illegal dumping pushes BC conservation to the tipping point

Problem is worse along Highway 37S

The Conservation Office had drawn attention to what it’s calling a “staggering amount” of illegal dumping happening between Kitimat and Terrace.

Terrace Conservation Officer Service’s Sgt. Tracy Walbauer said the dumping is happening on public and private land, on backroads, sideroads and in the bush, in some cases on a commercial scale.

“Those responsible clearly have no respect for private property or the environment and are without conscience in my opinion,” said Walbauer. “Nobody should have to clean up these messes but that’s exactly what is happening.”

Walbauer said residents and community groups have taken it upon themselves to go out and clean some of the sites, littered with household refuse, furniture, cars, appliances and demolition debris.

“Despite their hard work, the problem continues. Those responsible for the dumping should be ashamed of themselves.”

Illegal dumping is a long-standing problem in the area, but for the second consecutive year the problem has worsened after changes in Terrace’s garbage collection system. When the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine’s (RDKS) new regional Forceman Ridge waste handling facility opened in 2016, it resulted in the closure of the Terrace landfill and the creation of a transfer station in Thornhill.

Although the new system has won multiple awards, the extra costs for anything beyond regular household garbage collection hasn’t been popular. The new fees are $10 per load up to 200 pounds, or $110 per tonne.

Overall, Walbauer said, known incidents of illegal dumping have roughly doubled.

“Yes, it’s on people’s minds so more people are looking for it.

There are more eyes in the woods, but the reality is the occurrences are way up than what they were prior.

“I don’t want to dump on the RDKS —getting people to recycle and all are great things. But you’re going to have some old-school people out there who don’t want to go down that road.”

READ MORE: People keep dumping garbage on the outskirts of Thornhill

Allan Wayne-Webber owns a property in the Copper River where he’s seen a steady flow of illegal dumping both before and after the garbage fees were introduced.

On a short drive up an access road he showed several sites popular for dumping household garbage and furnishings. Further into the bush he pointed out rotting fish and game — sockeye heads, a moose carcass and a fully intact otter.

“I’m a hunter, I’m a trapper, I respect the laws of the land — and I believe you don’t always have to take from it to enjoy God’s creation.

He pointed out a smashed up car, garbage, bed frames and chairs at a site that’s less than 3km from downtown Terrace.”

“Something’s got to be done about all this dumping. It’s disgusting,” he said.

To combat the problem the RDKS has supplied some signs and video cameras for the problematic areas. A working group has also been established, consisting of the RDKS, Conservation Officer Service, garbage contractor Nechako Northcoast, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Forests. Members of the group continue to share information but regular formal meetings have dropped off.

“We’ve really only been in touch via email as the issues arise,” said Walbauer.

“It would be really helpful to sit down regularly with the group, but honestly I think we’re all just too busy. There’s so many of these sites and so many issues, and it’s also just one thing on everybody’s plate.

Walbauer asked for the public to be observant and report suspicious activity.

“If you are paying someone to remove items or demolition debris ask the question ‘where is it going?’ and request receipts proving it was delivered to the appropriate facility or transfer station,” said Walbauer.

He said COS has issued several $575 fines but that the amount isn’t high enough to deter some polluters. He said the next step will be taking offenders to court to seek “significantly higher penalties.”

District of Kitimat chief administrative officer Warren Weycheshen said both the district and the RCMP were not aware of any dumping issues closer to Kitimat.

“Illegal dumping can happen anywhere and we may not have seen it or had it reported yet,” said Weycheshen.

Anyone who witnesses illegal dumping is urged to contact the Report all Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).

– additional reporting by Gerry Leibel

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