Volunteers gathered this past weekend to clean up 25 tonnes of garbage from forests south of Nanaimo.
President of the Ladysmith Sportsmen Club, Dave Judson, organizes annual cleanups of forest lands in the area. This past Saturday, April 23, volunteers tackled illegal dumping sites, including Spruston Road in Cassidy.
“In seven cleanups we’ve removed over 63 tonnes in total. And on average, 10 tonnes finds its way back into the forest every year,” Judson said.
He says that illegal dumping could occur for several reasons, but he suspects that it has a lot to do with hours of operation at waste facilities, cost of disposal and downright laziness.
“I have picked up five tonnes up past Peerless Road dump,” he said. “What happens is people go there with a full truckload and the dump is closed. They need their truck empty … even though that’s not an excuse [and] they drive up the logging road and kick it out at the next turn.”
Illegal dumping has led to many back roads being gated off, which limits access to the back country for responsible users. And while loss of access to the back country is top-of-mind for Judson and others, their primary concern is the danger that dumping sites pose to the environment.
“The biggest concern is irreversible habitat loss and environmental damage … We’ve come upon burned cars still smouldering. The fire risk is high right now. There’s fuel, oils, batteries, rubber, and other contaminants like that.”
During the cleanup, volunteers collected several tires and vehicle frames. An abandoned RV was found at one site, which had to be demolished by an excavator and loaded into a bin truck to be removed.
The event was sponsored by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Backcountry Horsemen of B.C., Jon Rice Excavating, Little Valley Collision, Coastal Trucking, Stalker Excavating, Tim Hortons, Extend Rentals, Granby Bobcat Excavating, Country Grocer, Craig Adams, and Mosaic Forest Management.
Many of the illegal dumping sites were on Mosaic-owned timberlands. Mosaic has been involved in cleanup efforts from Campbell River down to Sooke, and this year the company is redoubling its efforts to support volunteers.
“We’re very thankful and grateful for the regular contingent of volunteers that help us on an ongoing basis,” said Domenico Iannidinardo, vice-president of forest and logistics and chief forester for Mosaic. “For Earth Week, we’ve made a point of making a blitz, and co-ordinating groups up and down the Island to make sure we provide support with trucking, food and safety equipment.”
Iannidinardo said that the Earth Week initiative is a pilot project and depending on the results, Mosaic may help volunteer groups conduct cleanups at other times of the year. Other groups like the Comox Valley Regional District, Stop Comox Strathcona Illegal Dumping, and the Rotary Club of Comox also held cleanup events during Earth Week.
In 2020, Mosaic recovered a substantial quantity of illegally dumped material, everything from cars to couches, at the cost of more than $85,000 to clean up.
As for the cleanup effort on Saturday, Judson said that the cost of the cleanup was a minimum of $15,000, but the cost to dispose of the garbage would have been $3,000 to $4,000.