Someone went way out of their way to illegally dump more than a dozen bags of asbestos-laden materials in the Chilliwack River Valley — again.
It looks like it’s becoming a problem.
A veteran conservation officer told The Progress this week, he had not personally seen other asbestos dumping cases before in the CRV.
It’s the fourth time in six months.
“In my 20 year career, I can’t remember other calls like this,” said Conservation Officer Don Stahl.
They found 14 bags of what looks like construction waste, and some was confirmed to contain asbestos.
It was a mix of extra-large, black commercial garbage bags, along with yellow ones denoting they contain some sort of chemical or hazardous waste.
The dump site location, off a forest services road, near the Ford Mountain Correctional Centre, made it suspicious.
“They went really out of their way not to be seen,” the officer said. “And in the last seven months we’ve had quite an alarming quantity of these calls.”
Four of these dump incidents have so far cost the province, and taxpayers just under $12,000 for proper disposal.
He called out an emergency response officer from Surrey to investigate and identify the dumped material.
There could be several reasons why it is happening.
“It may be, as we were led to understand, that certain landfills are not accepting these materials anymore. Number two is the cost, it’s not as cheap as dumping household garbage for example. And three, is laziness,” he said.
They were notified in late May, the bags spotted by local citizens who were scouting other dump sites and came upon the mess.
“It could have been someone renovating a home who hired a company that wasn’t reputable, or a fly-by-night operation,” said the CO.
Instead of paying the disposal fees, and doing it properly, they just unload it deep in the back country, and pocket the difference.
But the criminals are taking a big risk. Those willing to discard illegal and hazardous cancer-causing materials like asbestos in the pristine back country should be forewarned, it’s not just a little fine if they get caught. They could lose their vehicles and more, added Stahl.
It’s also hard to pinpoint how long the bags had been there, but the cleanup was conducted Sunday by a crew contracted to dispose of it properly. They had to gather, re-bag, label and haul away the deteriorating mess of what looked like construction demolition debris, gyp-rock, tiles and insulation.
Photos were taken at the dump site and sent to the COs in late May, said Chris Gadsden, member of the Fraser Valley Illegal Dumping Alliance. They are actively pushing for more enforcement in the area, or something to quell the practice of deleterious dumping.
‘”We have now reached the point something has to be done to change things around as this has gone on for way too long,” said Gadsden.
“In 2002 we realized something had to be done then, but it has been cleanups and trying to educate users of the Chilliwack River Valley ever since, but it has not improved very much.”
As the population and number of visitors continues to grow, it gets worse.
“Many people say close these areas off, and it may help that area, but they just go elsewhere to dump garbage and leave a messy camp after a few days’ stay.
“Our province is just too big to block everything off.”
City of Chilliwack has been taking steps to make the Bailey Landfill able to accept asbestos.
The CO has some advice for the public who want to protect the environment from illegal dumping. If they spot a suspicious vehicle, say with 10 to 20 bags of garbage in the back of a pickup heading up the valley, try to take a photo of the bags. Record the licence plate number and get a detailed description of the vehicle, if possible, the CO said, and call it in to the RAPP line.
A plate number is not enough since criminals often slap a stolen plate onto their vehicle to commit crimes. The COs need the specific make, and model of the suspect vehicle, and any distinguishing elements like roof racks.
“But if we do catch someone in the act of polluting, it’s not just a fine. We would advocate seizing the vehicle through civil forfeiture, especially in a case like this where it’s hazardous materials, known to cause cancer,” said Stahl.
At this point they have no suspects, and no leads.
To report illegal dumping, call the provincial RAPP line – Report All Poachers and Polluters, 1-877-952-7277.