Garbage dumping in Chilliwack targeted in a new way

A key issue is the under-reporting of illegal dumping offences to the RAPP line, but that is going to change

Stakeholders put their heads together recently

A strategy to take on garbage dumping in Chilliwack is in the early stages, focused on improved reporting.

Next time an illegal dumping incident is witnessed in Chilliwack, it’s hoped that more people will know what to do and they’ll spring into action.

The answer is to call the provincial RAPP hotline, of course — not the RCMP as some people might think — to report the crime.

A strategy to fight the rampant dumping in Chilliwack, and across the Fraser Valley, is in the works thanks to a partnership of groups and agencies who met recently to brainstorm some action-oriented solutions.

Stakeholders put their heads together recently, including Chilliwack groups who organize riverside cleanups and advocate for sport fishing, as well as City of Chilliwack, BC Conservation Service, FVRD and more.

The meeting Nov. 17 facilitated by Fraser Riverkeeper, pinpointed that the “under-reporting of illegal dumping” was key, and is probably due to a lack of knowledge on how to properly report incidents.

All reports should be made to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) Hotline by calling 1-888-952-7277. But often the reports reach a conservation officer too late to conduct an effective investigation and bring polluters to justice.

In order to address this issue, the attendees agreed to ramp up education and public awareness of illegal dumping and the proper way to report.

“We’ve gone ahead and put up new signage in spots like Gill Road,” said Sgt. Steven Jacobi of BC Conservation Officer Service.

The signs direct people where material can be dumped legally and cheaply.

They also cut off access to some dumping locations.

“There are people who actually care about protecting the environment, but there is this public perception that nothing can be done and nothing is being done. But nothing is further than the truth,” added Jacobi.

They’re looking at different options for education and awareness raising, like volunteers hitting the riversides to talk to people.

Out of the 50 or so files the COS has every year from those reporting illegal dumping, only about two are considered “actionable,” he said.

It’s important to record the details and call them in quickly. Take a photo of the suspect, and the licence plate. But don’t engage the person doing the dumping, the CO advised.

“People who are dumping have to know that other people are watching. When they know that everyone out there is potentially reporting them, they are less likely to do it.”

They’ve been working separately for years.

“It was so encouraging to get together with a group of people from so many organizations and leave feeling inspired,”  said Nikki Rekman of the Chilliwack Vedder River Cleanup Society. “We all share a common goal of keeping our natural areas clean and enjoyable for everyone in our communities.”

Discussions largely focused on the work that these respective organizations have been doing to combat illegal dumping on the Fraser River to date, and investigating ways in which they can work collaboratively to address the problems.

Fraser Riverkeeper is looking for public input over the next few days. Tell them how to stop illegal dumping by responding by Nov. 28 to the feedback page on their website at fraserriverkeeper.ca.

Try to record key pieces of information, and photos are helpful if they can be taken safely.  Witnesses may even be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2000 through the BC Wildlife Federation if the report leads to a conviction.

A key issue identified during the meeting was under-reporting of illegal dumping offences, due largely to a lack of awareness on how to properly report. All reports mjust be made to COS through the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) Hotline at 1-888-952-RAPP or 1-888-952-7277, but also by punching in #7277 on the Telus mobile network, or going online at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/rapp/form.htm).

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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