Conservation officer Murray Smith called upon Coast residents to be the “eyes and ears” in the forest to ease the capture of illegal dumpers, as dwindling resources can make it a challenge for authorities to investigate.
He estimated that about 30 reports are made per year to the report a poacher polluter (RAPP) hotline, but “sometimes we don’t get to them.
“We’re trying to juggle that with everything else we do,” Smith explained.
He added that the announced departure of fisheries officers from the Coast “isn’t going to help” with regards to the resources available for investigating illegal dumpsites.
Responding to reports has been a task shared by several groups, including the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Natural Resource Operations and the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).
As for tracking down the offenders, evidence contained in the piles is often crucial to tracking down the guilty party, as are licence plate numbers.
Smith said his office deploys motion-sensitive cameras like those used on game trails to help catch offenders. The cameras are moved around known dumping areas in order to make the best use of resources.
“We just happened to set one up recently and found a violator, up in the mine site,” he said.
Smith said new enforcement surveillance technologies could soon lend a hand in the battle against illegal dumps.
“There’s some really great stuff that can do licence plate reading,” he said.
But for now, authorities still depend on the help of the community at large to identify possible dumpers.
A ticket for illegally dumping household waste in the woods is $115, no matter the weight, but there are other tactics, according to Smith.
A battery, for example, might be considered “hazardous waste,” and a unique charge can “theoretically” be issued for each one found in the pile.
Those caught are often asked to clean up their waste and possibly other dumps in order to avoid fines and time in front of a judge, a form of restorative justice Smith has used in the past.
“Between the group of us, somebody will try to investigate it,” he explained, adding that the option of sending a suspect to court always remains.
Smith asked that residents avoid becoming involved should they suspect illegal activity. The best help is an identification of the violator. Physical descriptions and licence plate numbers work best, he said.
“The next thing is they call the RAPP line and report it. Even if we don’t get to that site and do that investigation that day, it gets put on the SCRD’s mapping system and we know where the chronic dumping locations are,” Smith said.
Volunteers have also played a role in cleaning up illegal dumps.
The SCRD has a Good Samaritan clean-up program. Those who take it upon themselves to help clean up the garbage can have the tipping fees waived, so long as they call the dump ahead of time or provide photographic evidence.