A “staggering” amount of illegal dumping is occurring in the region from Terrace to Kitimat and all points between, according to reports from the Terrace BC Conservation office. On public and private land, on backroads, sideroads and in the bush, reports of household refuse, furniture, cars, appliances and demolition debris are at an all-time high.
In some cases the dumping has been commercial in scale, said CO Tracy Walbauer.
“Those responsible clearly have no respect for private property or the environment and are without conscience in my opinion. No one else should have to clean up these messes but that’s exactly what is happening, residents and community groups are out cleaning up some sites but the problem continues and those responsible 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 the garbage collection system, when the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine’s (RDKS) new regional Forceman Ridge waste handling facility opened in 2016, 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 peoples’ 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.”
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 Terrace Standard staff 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. But we have this,” he said, pointing at the moose carcase, “and we have a smashed up car back over there. Garbage, bed frames and chairs that we passed already…We’re just three-and-half kilometres 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 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,” Walbauer said.
“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.
Last year Dover Road resident Dave Jordan told the Terrace Standard he’s been cleaning up illegally dumped household trash off his property for more than 20 years. After the garbage fees were levied the trash went from about a half bag every month to four bags every month.
However since his story ran, Jordan now says the illegal dumping has completely stopped. “It could have been from the exposure, whoever was doing it figured they better do it somewhere else,” he said.
Jordan had also objected to paying for the disposal of the illegally dumped waste but has since been instrumental in seeing a new bylaw passed that waves fees for people bringing public trash to the transfer station.
In the meantime, Walbauer is asking 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,” Walbauer said.
Conservation has issued several $575 fines but Walbauer said 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.
If you witness any of these activities call the Report all Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).