Garbage dumping along Alberni Valley roads has been an ongoing issue for more than a decade and has some Port Alberni residents baffled at the amount of junk being tossed in a natural habitat.
“I come out here to get away from it all and get some peace,” said Leslie West, a Port Alberni resident.
West has become increasingly concerned with the amount of garbage and other materials being dumped along Ash Main, a gravel road in the Sproat Lake area.
West walks her dog, Major Tom, along Ash Main or on China Creek Trails every day. Both areas are covered with garbage that “just keeps popping up,” and it’s a sight that puts a damper on the normally beautiful surroundings.
“There’s garbage hanging in trees, there’s garbage everywhere,” she said. “How I find my way around the trails is by remembering the garbage.”
Ash Main is an Island Timberlands owned property that can be reached by turning left off the Pacific Rim Highway onto Faber Road and then left again onto Ash Main. Everything from bags of garbage, roofing tiles, chairs, baby strollers, dead chickens (seen below), compost and bicycles can be found littered along the Ash Main roadside and over the embankment.
“We’re aware of garbage and it’s an ongoing issue,” said Makenzie Leine, manager of community and government relations with Island Timberlands. “We do regular cleanups but there tends to be reoccurrences of dumping in particular areas.”
The Ash Main area is currently not gated but Leine said when vandalism occurs on Island Timberlands properties, restricting access to certain areas becomes necessary.
Island Timberlands tries to reduce incidences of dumping through working closely with the Regional District, partnerships, education and group cleanup efforts, she said.
“If anybody wants to report dumping on our land that’s another helpful way to manage it,” Leine said.
“They can call Safety Net Security at 1-888-846-4457.”
West has reported the garbage on Ash Main.
Another Sproat Lake area where garbage dumping is an issue is along Hector Road.
“It’s a terrible area that people just dump everything there,” said Penny Cote, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (Sproat Lake) electoral area director.
“I couldn’t tell you why people do it, they just do.”
Cote said the Regional District is supportive of cleanup efforts and has a budget line item for waiving tipping fees.
Sheena Falconer, West Coast Aquatic stewardship association executive director, is helping Cote organize a cleanup along Hector Road. Falconer is looking for donations and funding for larger cleanup measures like machinery rentals.
“In the case of Hector Road what’s happened is we have people dumping stuff over the bank, which is quite steep, and there’s oftentimes fluids still left in some of the stuff that’s down there that leaks into the ground and it can create a hazardous situation,” Falconer said.
Garbage dumping in the Valley has been an ongoing issue for more than a decade, she added, and thinks maybe people are worried about what it would cost to bring their materials to the dump—so they dump it elsewhere.
“A message I’d like to get out there is if there’s a cost issue to people for dumping garbage, the [West Coast Aquatic Stewardship Association] can probably work with them to try and make an alternative than dumping out in the bush,” Falconer said.
According to the ADCR website the Alberni Valley Landfill charges, for loads under 84 kg, $2 per bag of garbage up to a maximum of $8. Fridges and freezers are $20 each to dump and stumps and land clearing debris is $120 per tonne. The Alberni Valley landfill allows free disposal of yard and garden waste such as leaves, grass and branches up to six centimetres in diameter.
“I don’t know if people feel like [dumping] doesn’t have impact because it does have impact. Putting any kind of material out there breaks into the ground and introduces invasive species,” Falconer said. “Even people dumping their garden cuttings introduces invasive species which we don’t want and it’s just plain ugly.”
Falconer said birds and other animals will often see garbage, a foreign object to them, and they will try and use it as food sources or get themselves tangled and caught amongst the debris, which could potentially harm them.
“We want to avoid those kinds of things as much as possible and there’s no need for garbage to be out in the bush,” Falconer said.
“We’ve got a huge recycling station on Third Avenue and a dump that can take that garbage.”