The region’s program to prevent illegal dumping seems to be working. Still, many people are throwing items that could be disposed of freely.
These were a couple of the main points that bylaw officer Mike Dinesen brought to the attention of the Comox Strathcona Waste Management board at their latest meeting on March 11.
“We’ve had a slight decrease in the number of reports,” he said.
According to the staff report to the board, there were 92 reports of dumping sites across the region versus 94 in 2019 and 105 in 2018. In terms of the amount, 23.2 tonnes of waste was collected, resulting in waived tipping fees of $3,027, compared with 28.9 tonnes and just over $3,687 in tipping fees during 2019.
There was some concern that with more people doing work around their homes in 2020, especially during pandemic lockdown time, that the Comox and Strathcona regional districts could see an upswing in the problem of illegal waste disposal. Community clean-ups were also cancelled, though many residents did their own.
“We did not see any significant spike during COVID,” Dinesen said.
The tickets and the warning letters appear to be getting their message across to those who are caught dumping, while the webpage for people to make complaints also seems to be working.
“We have not seen any repeat offenders,” Dinesen said, adding staff also monitor discussions on social media.
If there is a downside, it is that many offenders are still throwing out items that could be disposed of legally for free or recycled, with more than half the dumpsites containing such items.
CSWM started the reporting program in 2017, and as Dinesen said, it relies on the efforts of volunteers in the communities.
“They pretty much assist us with every site,” he said.
One of the Strathcona board members, Noba Anderson, was concerned about what happened at the sites that have been found. Dinesen said these are each cleaned up.
“I think we have one of the more proactive programs out there,” he added.
Another question from Will-Cole Hamilton, a Courtenay representative, was whether there had been any variation to the numbers of reported dumping incidents through 2020, perhaps as a result of the board’s decision to close a couple of unstaffed recycling depots, one in Campbell River and one north of Courtenay. Dinesen responded that the numbers were consistent throughout the year, even after the closures in mid-2020.
Edwin Grieve, a Comox Valley director, wondered whether there were data comparing the Comox-Strathcona regions to others around the province. Dinesen said they did not have numbers but added that some places are pushing for a provide-wide response to the problem of dumping.
Strathcona board member Brenda Leigh asked about how the program worked compared with the province’s Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline, which can levy much larger fines than those imposed by the region. Dinesen said that while the region partners with RAPP and shares its information with the province, it does in turn get data from the province for a comparison.
Leigh responded by asking staff to consider looking at imposing larger fines on offenders.
“I think it would be a deterrent,” she said.