“Upper Sunningdale is back into being a neighbourhood dump,” says Larry Abenante, Trail public works manager. “It’s quite a mess.”
A walker who frequents the area spied one particularly large junk pile last week and subsequently reported it to the city – but first the person rifled through the mass of household garbage in search of clues to identify the polluter.
Narcotic prescription bottles were uncovered which included a name and date (March 7 this year). While a clearly labelled item like a prescription bottle may appear damning, the reality is that no one will be held accountable for the illegal dump.
“The person came across the prescription bottles and gave them to me,” Abenante explained. “So I took them to the RCMP.”
What happened then?
Nothing, actually. Even if the prescription-holder was tracked down, he or she would only have to come up with a weak excuse to distance themselves, such as someone else was hired to throw out the garbage or the items were given to a friend.
Abenante says the bottom line is, the person has to be caught red-handed for legal recourse to be taken.
“You’ve got to catch these people in the act, that’s the only way,” he said.
“There is no real answer … there are so many smaller trails up there, some of the land is not even ours, it’s regional district or privately owned.”
Larry Abenante has been dealing with this for a while, several years actually, says RCMP Sgt. Darren Oelke.
“The police occasionally get involved, but the stuff in Sunningdale is on City of Trail property and is dealt with as a bylaw issue. The Conservation Service may also be someone to talk to. They deal with the environmental issues related to illegal dumping.”
Oelke says extreme cases could turn into an issue of Mischief under Section 430 of the Criminal Code.
“This section primarily deals with willful damage but….section 430(1)(b) states ‘every one commits mischief who obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property’. It would be a stretch but this is the only criminal offence I can think of.”
This is a real problem but very difficult to prove who is responsible, he added.
“Even when trash is found with someone’s mail in it they just say that they had someone cleaning up for them. Need to catch them in the act or have good pictures or video.”
This person kindly placed his/her contaminants in a planter
Last year, Abenante suggested that a motorized gate be installed at the bottom of the road, which would accommodate dog walkers, hikers and trail bikers to limited daytime hours.
That idea was rejected by private landowners and a city councillor because many people who access the upper pathways, drive up the road to the trail heads then begin their trek.
“The land is part of the trail system (Trans Canada Trail),” said Abenante. “And that’s how we find out about it (dumping), guys that go walking and hiking bring this to our attention,” he emphasized.
“This is just the start of the season and this is already what we are finding. So if you are out and about and see this kind of activity, please report it.”
Abenante recalled another incident called into the city this week, this one involved an unknown liquid pollutant.
“Yesterday (Thursday) we got a call that there was an oil slick in the river,” he said. “We rushed down there trying to figure out where it came from, and realized it was coming from a storm pipe.”
The spill, deliberate or otherwise, was traced to a back alley in downtown Trail.
“Someone could have pulled something out of their truck, could have been oil or solvent, and dumped it,” Abenante said. “We can’t do anything about it other than to find the source and stop it.”
Another way tips can be reported regardless of jurisdiction, is through a provincial hotline called RAPP (Report all Poachers and <s