SOUTHWEST COAST, N.L.
Despite the introduction of the new Western Regional Waste Management (WRWM) Sort It Western recycling program, there are still obvious incidents of non-compliance throughout the region.
Even prior to the provincially ordered recycling program, when it was free to drop items at the Port aux Basques town landfill, illegal dumping was problematic on the Southwest Coast.
In the July 8, 2013 edition of The Gulf News, Burnt Islands Councillor Wallace Kinslow stated he was at his wit’s end about the unsightly garbage at a growing illegal dump. Since it was outside of any municipal jurisdiction, there was little the town could do.
“There is no way a group of volunteers could go in there to clean this mess. It requires excavators and dump trucks now to haul this away,” said Kinslow. “And who is going to pay for that?”
Five years later illegal dumping remains an issue, and not just for Burnt Islands.
A recent trip throughout the Southwest Coast revealed several illegal dumpsites from Codroy Valley to Isle aux Morts. Some of the larger scale items such as refrigerators and washers rusting out due to lengthy exposure to the salty climate, but there are still plenty of new materials and smaller garbage that have recently been added to the dumpsites.
Moose hunting season doesn’t help.
There were well over a half dozen rotting skins and carcasses, usually bound in tarps which did little to discourage feral cats. Then there are the incessant litter materials such as coffee cups.
Isle aux Morts (IAM) Mayor Nelson Lillington wrote via email that the town council and staff were doing their utmost to ensure that residents have all possible information about the new Cape Ray transfer station, noting, “Many things are accepted free of charge.”
Lillington confirmed that the town will still be holding an annual spring cleanup for larger items.
“If anyone has items that they are unable to get to the transfer point on their own I encourage them to contact the town office and we will try to provide some assistance to them,” promises Lillington.
Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Andrew Parsons says this issue has proved to be an ongoing problem for many years throughout the province, so it’s difficult to judge what role if any the new recycling program is playing when it comes to illegal dumping.
“With the advent of the new waste management system, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the possibility of an increase in illegal dumping,” Parsons told The Gulf News. “I don’t have any information to suggest that is real or not real. Put it this way… what we had before is concerning enough. It’s just gross.”
Combating illegal dumping is frustrating, expensive and all but impossible given Newfoundland’s size and geography.
“Especially when you’re talking about rural areas, smaller communities, LSDS,” noted Parsons. “This is a very hard offense to handle. If people want to do this, choose to be covert enough, then it’s very hard to combat it.”
Parsons says he works closely with Service NL to enforce legislation surrounding illegal dumping, but that just like with speeding or poaching, the perpetrator must usually be caught in the act.
The minister also stated that the province is already facing too many fiscal challenges to hire people to patrol illegal sites, but there are means to help catch offenders and that must start with the public.
“For just as many people that are engaging in this, there are a hell of a lot of people that are sickened by it, and don’t like it, and will report it.”
Mayor Lillington encourages people to report offenders to authorities.
“I am not naive and think that no one will dump items illegally, however, I would hope that people would report anyone they see doing this to either their town halls or the RCMP,” he said.
Those who repeatedly engage in the practice of illegal dumping run the risk of facing severe consequences.
“We will take whatever steps are necessary, and for somebody that does get caught, we will prosecute them as harshly as possible,” promised the minister. “To the people that do it, if you get caught, we go down that road. You will get prosecuted.”
Parsons is not unsympathetic to people adjusting to the new WRWM recycling program.
“I get people’s issues with waste management. I get it,” he said. “But we live on an island. You can’t continue to do things like you’ve done it. We have to evolve.”
The minister also noted that illegal dumping impacts the province on several fronts, including tourism. Then there are the long-term consequences.
“To me the deterrent should be let’s try to leave an environment that’s safe to our kids and grandkids.”
Recycling program update
The new Sort It Western program is off to a good start according to Port aux Basques town manager Leon MacIsaac.
“Refuse Collectors have indicated that the majority of material collected complies with the new regulations,” stated MacIsaac via email.
While only clear and blue bags are acceptable under the new recycling program, WRWM has allowed a grace period for those still using black bags.
Currently Port aux Basques trucks are collecting the bags and transporting them to the new facility, but whether or not that will continue permanently has yet to be determined.
“The Town has agreed to collect refuse in the interim until the Southwest Coast Waste Joint Management Committee (SWCJMC) comes to an agreement on collection for the area,” confirmed MacIsaac.