The sun breaks through the branches of trees amid the chirping birds along the Doumont trails but the serenity of the landscape is marred with a pile of rotting garbage strewn across the forest floor.
It’s a familiar sight for Ken Smith, a member of the Mid Island ATV Club, but one he’s not happy to encounter. He uses the trails a few times a month to get out and enjoy nature, but every time he goes he encounters piles of garbage.
“It’s just disgusting,” he said. “It’s got to stop.”
He said club members often take it upon themselves to clean up the garbage. But during one recent trek on the trails he encountered more garbage than usual and was so outraged he felt compelled to speak out.
He started a Facebook page – www.facebook.com/illegalgarbagedumping – for people to connect, plan clean-up projects, and discuss ways to combat illegal dumping in their neighbourhoods.
“Why do people want to ruin it for everybody else?” said Smith. “It’s just amazing the lengths people will go to, to avoid going to the dump.”
Maude Mackey, Regional District of Nanaimo zero waste compliance officer, said it wouldn’t matter if the person dumping lived right beside the landfill.
“They would rather beat the crap out of their vehicle and spend $10 worth of gas to go out into the middle of nowhere than go to the dump,” said Mackey. “It’s just a lifestyle and a mentality.”
Bill McMillan, a spokesman for the Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club, said it’s always been a problem.
“It gets so ugly you don’t want to spend time up there playing in a garbage dump,” he said. “It’s pretty frustrating because you clean it up and people are dumping again within 24 hours.”
Mackey said illegal dumping isn’t a new problem nor is it unique to Nanaimo.
“It’s around the world and has always happened. The most we can do is manage it,” she said.
In 2011 the RDN disposed of 38 metric tons of garbage from illegal dumping. The garbage is typical household trash and yard waste.
The garbage can impact ground and surface water and potentially affect fish habitat. Wildlife can be injured, poisoned, maimed or killed as a result of foraging through the garbage for food.
“Something in a stream presents more of a concern than something dumped on a rock face,” said Mackey.
Vacant land is usually the target of illegal dumping activity, said Gary Franssen, manager of sanitation and recycling for the City of Nanaimo. He said the problem areas are scattered throughout the city. Clean-up responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the property owners, but many community organizations in the city have worked hard to co-ordinate cleanup efforts to combat the problem.
“This is a community problem and it takes a community response to deal with the problem,” said Franssen.
People can help combat illegal dumping by recording the licence plates or taking a photo of individuals they see dumping and reporting it to the City of Nanaimo or the RDN.
“That’s how we battle this is getting information and following up on the people doing this,” said Franssen.
He said the city or RDN tracks down the individuals to clean up the garbage or fine them. The RDN’s illegal dumping bylaw allows the district to fine individuals up to $200,000.
To report illegal dumping in the RDN, outside the municipalities of Nanaimo and Lantzville, please call 250-390-6560 or 1-877-607-4111, or go online to www.rdn.bc.ca and click on the solid waste and recycling link.
To report illegal dumping on the City of Nanaimo property please call 250-758-5222.