It’s the largest illegal dump of asbestos — but not the first — so far this year in the Chilliwack River Valley.
About 70 sealed bags labelled as containing asbestos were unloaded in a pile near Chipmunk Creek Forest Service Road, said Orion Engar, FVRD director for Electoral Area E.
“I just got word today of yet another toxic asbestos dump in the Chilliwack River Valley,” he said.
It’s the third similar dumping incident of 2015, and Local Conservation Officer Service is planning sending an officer to investigate. They are also calling for any witnesses to call the RAPP line with any information.
Engar said he took a drive out to the dump location, off the Bench Road, with federal Fisheries officers.
“They estimated that this largest of three asbestos dumps in 2015 alone, was approximately 60 to 70 bags dumped from a tandem axle vehicle, likely a dump truck due to tracks seen in the snow,” said Engar.
He reported it to COS and the RAPP line, FLNRO and the local MLA.
The markings on the yellow waste bags read: “Caution. Keep sealed. Avoid making dust. Breathing asbestos fibres may cause serious bodily harm.”
The matter is of provincial jurisdiction.
Conservation Officer Sgt. Steve Jacobi confirmed there have been several similar dumping incidents this year alone in the CRV.
“We think they have dumped there, or somewhere nearby before. The problem seems to keep repeating itself,” Jacobi said.
The illegal dumping is likely the work of contractors refusing to transport it to the appropriate licensed facilities in order to avoid the dumping costs.
“We don’t have any suspects at this point,” said Jacobi. “All we know is it appears to be a commercial job since it’s in the proper bags and sealed.”
What usually happens is someone hires what they believe to be a professional and scrupulous contractor to remediate a building constructed with asbestos laden materials.
“Given the markings on the bags that were sealed, it looks like they were doing it right, but then it all gets dumped in the bush.”
Taxpayers will probably end up paying for the cleanup, Jacobi said, since the provincial ministries like MoE or FLNRO do not have the budget for such cleanups.
City of Chilliwack officials have told the COS they have no way of disposing of it at the Bailey landfill either, since they’d need to get permission for a specially designated area of the landfill for it to be stored before shipping.
It requires special licensing to transport the materials to Alberta facilities at a cost of about $12 per bag, along with a hazardous waste manifest, when the load is at least 1000 kg.
But this volume was far less than that, so all that would be required is transporting it to a licensed facility.
“Someone is getting duped here,” said Sgt. Jacobi. “It’s either a homeowner or a business owner. My thought is that it’s the same contractor in several if not all of these cases. Someone is getting a good deal.
“It looks like they’ve done it properly but people should ask their contractors where the material is going.”
Investigating officers will be examining any remaining tire tracks and the turn radius of the dump trailer.
“We might get the make and model of the vehicle. But that still doesn’t tell us much,” said Jacobi.
This kind of crime is hard to prosecute or ticket, but if they had enough evidence to proceed, the perpetrators could be charged under the provincial Environmental Management Act for littering.
“If someone comes forward to say they saw something or someone, it might help, even without a plate. Every little tidbit of information helps.”
Engar would like to see more conservation officer presence and surveillance on the ground, and very heavy fines for anyone caught dumping.
“Cleanup of these incidents costs taxpayers literally thousands of dollars,” said Engar. “Many residents are doing their level best looking out for Crown land in the valley, but some dumpers seem to do their worst in the dark of the night.”
To report illegal dumping or pollution call the RAPP line Toll Free 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or online http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/rapp/form.htm