Asbestos dumped in the Chilliwack River Valley

Volunteers vowing to step up patrols after bags of asbestos are found dumped off Chilliwack Lake Road

If illegal dumpers go into the woods today, they could be in for a big surprise. Residents of the Chilliwack River Valley have stepped up their practice of observing and reporting suspicious behavior after another troubling find in the rural area.

Over the weekend members of the area’s Citizens on Patrol discovered about one dozen bags of asbestos just off the edge of Chilliwack Lake Road, near the Ford Mountain Prison site. A resident alerted the F’VRD’s area director, Orion Engar, over the weekend. He phoned it into the Conservation Hotline on Monday morning, who sent out an officer to confirm the large bags marked as carrying asbestos did contain the hazardous materials.

The asbestos was professionally bagged in the proper thick, plastic sealed bags. Asbestos is found in many buildings, as it was used in the past in insulation. It’s believed it’s not harmful until it’s disturbed.

As a hazardous material, asbestos removal and disposal is highly regulated. Asbestos is not accepted at the Chilliwack landfill, but it is accepted at the Vancouver landfill. The fees to dump a small load (under one tonne) vary but is under $200, according to the Metro Vancouver website.

The Ministry of Environment also confirmed with The Progress that manifests are required for the transport of hazardous materials, including asbestos. The asbestos is supposed to be registered with the MoE, and transportation is supposed to be tracked. Under the Environmental Management Act it is an offense to contravene a requirement of the Hazardous Waste Regulation, and conviction can result in a fine and/or jail time.

Asbestos is a group of minerals with microscopic fibres, which if breathed in can become trapped in the lungs for many years. Asbestos exposure is commonly linked to lung disease, lung cancer, COPD, asbestosis and several other conditions.

It’s unclear whether there is enough evidence at the site, or in manifests, to fine whoever dumped the asbestos.

But the dumped bags were only part of the problem. Someone has also removed three or four large concrete road barriers that were in place to protect a sensitive area.

It had to be someone with “substantial pulling power,” Engar told The Progress. Now that the barriers have been removed, vehicles are free to pass through to the Chipmunk Creek Caves.

He’s working to find someone to have the barriers replaced, he said.

And for those planning on using the area as their personal dumping ground, he has this message:

“Chilliwack River Valley Citizens on Patrol members are now out actively taking license plate numbers and reporting all suspicious activity to RCMP.”

jpeters@theprogress.com