“Who are you? And why do you think it’s okay to dump garbage on someone else’s land?” asks a Sunningdale grandmother.
We all have a responsibility to protect our environment for future generations, says Heidi McLachlan, a longtime Trail resident who called the Trail Times after seeing the shameful messes dumped near the Sunningdale water tower.
She and husband Bob McLachlan returned to Trail after a holiday south of the border, only to find garbage-strewn trails beyond the gateway and piles of discarded bags full of dog feces left at the road entrance.
The couple, along with daughter-in-law Krista Ferraby, begin each day by walking their dogs on the numerous dirt pathways in the rural Sunningdale benches.
“We usually pick up garbage on the way,” said Heidi. “But when we got back and saw what was up there now, I am appalled. Something has to be done, we are getting tired of cleaning up other people’s garbage.”
After working in Trail’s public works for 20 years, Larry Abenante says illegal dumping is an ongoing issue that directly impacts all city taxpayers.
He said last year his crews hauled four metric tonnes of illegally dumped materials, which quantifies to 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,” explained Abenante. “Not realizing that tax dollars need to be spent to clean up the illegally dumped garbage.”
A morning stroll through the Sunningdale water tower area, reveals everything from tires, car parts, household waste, old appliances, and bag upon bag spilling contents of garden waste mixed with other mostly plastic contaminants.
“That’s a health hazard,” said Krista, pointing to a gulley full of used diapers extruding from a large black bag. “Who knows what kind of diseases can be spread when something like that is left in the open.”
Further down the pathway, Heidi pointed down a bank, showing the spot where a very large bag filled with smaller bags of dog feces was thrown.
“What’s the point in that,” she said. “You’re just adding to the problem doing something like that.”
On everyone’s mind is, how can dumping in the area’s natural environment be stopped?
In Sunningdale’s high bench, the matter is complex because while the city owns the road leading to the water tower and controls the gate, affected properties are privately owned by individuals, Teck and the regional district.
“I wouldn’t mind if they would lock the gates so no one but the city and property owners could drive up there,” said Heidi.
“And I think they should be using security cameras to watch who goes up with a full load and comes back empty.”
Controlling vehicle access to the various sites isn’t so simple, says Abenante, adding the gates were originally installed as a safety feature when fewer people used the area for recreation.
“They are promoting trails (Trans Canada Trail) and there is a new house being built up there this year,” he explained. “So the guy building doesn’t want gates at all. And there’s trucks (permitted) going up and down at least half a dozen times a day so locking the gates could become a big hassle.”
Installing surveillance would be a capital investment if the city went that route, Abenante added, estimating security device costs would exceed $5,000.
“To get a proper camera we’d need to also set up power to the site,” he said. “And we’d need to install more than one.”
The only way to stop the problem is to have more people ratting on each other, he continued. “If more houses are built up there maybe in time it will get better. And we need more people watching, because it’s everyone’s job to keep an eye out.”
Abenante mentioned the increasing problem the city faces with its bear bins, which are scattered throughout neighbourhoods.
The containers were installed to prevent bruins and other wildlife from seeking garbage, but two-legged mammals are benefitting another way.
“Even today I went around Gyro on my way to work and the bear bins are loaded to the hilt,” explained Abenante, noting the receptacles were stuffed primarily with household waste. “There was up to six big garbage bags left all around the bins so dogs or raccoons can get in. It goes on and on, which is why I was never in favour of the bins in the first place because people dump garbage there.”
Another ongoing matter around Trail is littering, which is considered a form of illegal dumping. Refuse has become such a bane in downtown Trail that city crews need to sweep the streets weekly to gather debris like cigarette butts, food wrappers and coffee cups.
The biggest dumping problem however, is the unlawful disposal of recyclable materials like garden waste.
Grass clippings, branches, compost and other organics, often mixed with non-recyclable debris, can be found scattered down most banks throughout the city including the Sunningdale area.
“Just to be clear, it is illegal to dump garden waste,” said Abenante. “We’d like to remind everyone that scheduled spring and fall clean-ups allow for citizens to dispose of this properly.”
For the bigger jobs, city resources don’t allow the time for illegal dump pick ups, Abenante added. “Therefore contractors are hired to clean up and take the debris to the landfill. Some weeks no clean up is required, whereas some weeks we will call contractors one or two times.”
According to Abenante, the best way to combat the issue is education and community pride – respect for the city, its citizens and our environment.
“Eventually this garbage and debris makes its way into catch basins and then into the Columbia River,” he said. “What we need is more eyes watching.”