Spring thaw uncovers trash dumped along river

The illegal dump was easily visible from the south east side of the Old Trail Bridge, but not so easy for the Emcon road crew to clean up.

Battered chairs, ripped out drywall, broken cement and household junk dumped along the Casino Road river bank are grim reminders of what lies beneath the winter white.

The illegal dump was easily visible from the south east side of the Old Trail Bridge, but not so easy for the Emcon road crew to clean up last week.

A sizable snow pile is blocking access to the bank, impeding more dumping at the site, for now.

On the flipside, workers did pick up 140 kilograms of mostly wallboard and furniture, but the snow barrier hampered the job and chunks of concrete remain behind until later this spring.

The stretch of river bank is outside Trail boundaries, so Larry Abenante from city public works, reported the dump to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), as the land lies in Area B.

Abenante typically dispatches a work crew from Career Development Services (CDS) to clean up illegal dumps no matter the boundary, such as regional district turf surrounding the Sunningdale water towers.

However, the steep bank and unsafe conditions for CDS workers, some with physical challenges, had Abenante forwarding the request to the RDKB.

The matter becomes slightly muddied because anything outside municipal boundaries is Crown land, and responsibility for maintenance, including clean up, falls to the province under the Environmental Management Act (EMA).

Emcon Services, being the local highway maintenance contractor, was then summoned for the job.

So with the province footing the bill for hauling away the garbage, the question remains, “Where does the regional district fit into the picture?”

There’s no monetary deterrent at this point, because no illegal dumping fine exists.

But the problem is being investigated and remains a priority in the next few months, says RDKB Environmental Services Manager, Alan Stanley.

“Illegal dumping follows population patterns,” explained Stanley.

“It’s intermittent and clusters around population centres. People are not going to travel far to dump, ” he added. “It’s the modern day ‘shell midden,’ but with plastics and toxins mixed in.”

(A shell midden refers to historic dumps of primarily oyster shells, on the outskirts of coastal populations)

The modern day problem came to the forefront of the Environmental Services Committee last fall following Stanley’s report outlining the current RDKB legal standing and options to acquire authority to prohibit illegal dumping.

“The EMA enables regional districts to create and enforce illegal dumping prevention bylaws,” he said.

The provision would fall under Solid Waste Management Plans through the creation of a Waste Stream Management Licensing Bylaw (WSML).

“Before enactment, a WSML must be included in a Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and in addition to regular SWMP public consultation,” Stanley continued. “The province requires extensive stakeholder consultation with the solid waste management industry.”

Additional costs are part of any new program, but in the case of illegal dumping prohibition, Stanley says detailed financial implications are unknown and cannot be determined until the program scope is established.

At the end of the day, Stanley says illegal dumping funnels down to a community standards issue.

Meaning, the more eyes watching and reporting, the better – community engagement and education is key.

The City of Trail enacted a $500 fine for illegal dumping earlier this year.

The high volume of dumps primarily in Upper Sunningdale, Violin Lake and near the Trail airport had council amending its Ticket Information Utilization Bylaw and the Garbage and Waste Bylaw, establishing a financial impact to the offence.

Abenante says recent and historic dumping sites have already been cleaned up after the early snow melt.

An old lighting fixture was removed from Gorge Creek, and CDS crews swept Gyro Park beach this week, picking up everything from shopping carts and household waste, to pop cans and beer bottles, including the old stubby kind.

Last year his crews hauled four metric tonnes, or nearly 9,000 pounds of garbage to the regional landfill for proper disposal.

“People think they are saving money by illegally dumping in secluded areas,”Abenante said. “But it’s everyone’s tax dollars being spent to clean it up.”