Illegal dumping persists in the Campbell River area.
Some of the region’s usual suspects as sites for illegally dumped waste are seeing continued use.
A Campbell River Mirror reader tip earlier this week identified an alarming amount of waste just off of Duncan Bay Road near the Elk Falls Provincial Park Boundary.
Maria Provenzano took photos of the garbage during a recent walk in the area. Her images show household garbage strewn across shrubbery, a discarded deer pelt suspended in the water, a soggy mattress, a pile of colourful stones from a fish tank, a pyramid of discarded plywood, a microwave floating in the water.
Her neighbours tell her people dump there often.
“There’s fresh garbage there all the time,” she said.
Officials know the area and its surroundings, including Iron River Road and the Snowden Recreation Site north of the Campbell River are a problem for illegal dumping.
Michael Dinesen, a bylaw compliance officer and Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM) Illegal Dumping Program coordinator called it “an area of concern” and said they’ve received a number of tips for the area in 2019. The City of Campbell River and Strathcona Regional District are following up.
He said a volunteer clean-up of the area near Loveland Bay Road in May 2018 saw a number of discarded mattresses removed and properly disposed of.
In 2017, a program with the goal of education and enforcement around illegal dumping was started by CSWM. A May 2019 staff report on the program’s second year of operation between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019 shows that it is making headway.
The reporting of illegal dumping has increased by 83 per cent in Campbell River. During the reporting period, 21.5 tonnes of waste was removed compared to 64.4 tonnes in the program’s first year.
“This represents less waste being dumped in the service area in year two of the program,” the report said.
Volunteer James Barth, an admin for the Facebook group Stop Comox Strathcona Illegal Dumping, isn’t convinced the situation is improving.
“I don’t know that the dumping is getting any better, but the public’s participation in speaking up about it and sending in tips has increased definitely,” he said. “Participation by the public is very important. If you see something, say something.”
Barth, who is based in Union Bay, has been volunteering for a number of years to check out illegal dump sites in the area, and in some cases, hauling materials out.
He first became involved in 2012 after moving back to the Comox Valley after retiring from the military. Travelling into the backcountry with his family, he was discouraged by the amount of illegal dumping he saw.
“And something that somebody taught me a long time ago is if you see a problem, approach them with a solution,” he said. “So my solution was, well, instead of complaining about it, pick it up and take it to the landfill.”
Part of the problem, he said, is lack of knowledge.
“There’s a huge misperception on what landfill fees are costing,” he said.
People don’t necessarily understand the best way to reduce the fees they’re paying at the landfill.
A lot of the items he’s hauling out of the illegal dump sites are relatively inexpensive to take to the landfill and are, in some cases free. He said he sees a lot of household garbage and plenty of mattresses.
For household garbage, the minimum fee is $10 ($4 site access fee and a minimum charge of $6 for up to 100 kg).
“So do you spend $10 taking it to the landfill and paying for that, or do you pay $10 in gas and tossing it out on the side of the road in the bush?” he said.
Between 75 and 85 per cent of the illegal dumping sites reported “contain free-for-disposal items that could have been brought to recycling depots, transfer stations, landfills and Return-It depots for free,” said Dinesen in an emailed statement. “So unfortunately, the issue seems to be more related to people making the decision to illegally dump instead of using the facilities available to them.”
What happens when an illegal dumping site gets reported – either online, or by phone toll free at 1-800-331-6007 or 250-334-6000?
Bylaw enforcement officers are notified and check out the site to document its location and items that are there. They’ll see if they can pick out anything that may give a hint as to who owns the mess, as well as the jurisdiction for the area.
Everything gets logged into a database.
If Barth is investigating a tip as a volunteer, he’ll do the same and pass on the information to local bylaw officers.
Then, depending on the area, he may be asked if he wants to volunteer his time to clean it up. While historically, he’s gotten a landfill waiver when cleaning up illegal dump sites reported to bylaw, the cost does add up.
Since 2013, Barth said he’s collected 86 tonnes on his own, and 24 tonnes just last year.
Education remains a big piece of the puzzle, something CSWM and partners continue to address. An illegal dumping section on their website identifies some strategies to decrease your load coast at the landfill, including properly sorting your materials to remove things that can be recycled.
Garbage owners, not just the dumpers can be fined for illegal dumping. Current fines are $500.
Although dumping continues to be a problem, Dinesen said several people have been “identified and fines have been issued and collected.”
Many groups are volunteering to help clear out areas too. But for some, the clean-up effort is too much.
To those people, Barth said there’s other ways to help.
“If you can put a grocery bag in your pocket and pick up a little bit of stuff on your walk,” he said. “that helps.”
You can report illegal dumping online, or by calling toll free 1-800-331-6007 or 250-334-6000.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated from a previous version to reflect that quotes in an emailed statement from the Comox Valley Regional District and Comox Strathcona Waste Management came from Michael Dinesen, bylaw compliance officer and Illegal Dumping Program coordinator and not from Lyndsay Fraser, spokesperson for Comox Valley Regional District.