Neighbours upset over illegal dumpingFuel drums, chimney parts and metal waste abandoned along Ingraham Trail
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
There is something lurking in a ditch on the Ingraham Trail - and it's growing.
Several weeks ago, right before the annual Ingraham Trail cleanup the first weekend in June, two fuel tanks were abandoned on the side of the road near Prelude Lake East.
"That was the beginning of it," said Johanna Tiemessen, who lives in Prelude East and was involved with the annual cleanup.
Not long after the tanks were discovered, the pile started to grow, with other debris added to the heap.
"There's this theory that garbage attracts garbage, right? There's two fuel tanks there and whether it's the same person or it's somebody thinking, 'Oh there's garbage, I'm going to add my garbage to that garbage,'" said Tiemessen.
"The funny thing is as well it's being salvaged from - so something will show up one day, or two things will show up, one thing will disappear, and then another thing will show up."
None of this was what the volunteers, who adopt kilometres of road to clean, signed up for.
Every year, volunteers and the Department of Transportation (DOT) clean about 63 kilometres of ditches. Volunteers pick up the trash, leaving it in bags donated by the Department of Transportation to pick up for free once they're full.
"It's everybody coming together - volunteers picking it up, DOT picking up and the city letting us dump ... without a fee. It makes the world a better place," said Tiemessen.
Unfortunately, things like empty fuel tanks, a barrel full of chimney parts and mystery steel structures don't neatly fit into a volunteer's trash bag.
"The trail cleanup is intended to pick up Tim Hortons cups and things that fly out the back of people's trucks," said Tiemessen, adding something like a fuel tank doesn't just fall out of a person's truck.
"It's illegal and they're too lazy basically to pay the fee - or too cheap to pay the fee - to bring it to the dump themselves."
Unfortunately, this road-side island of misfit refuse isn't that unusual. Michael Conway, regional superintendent with the Department of Transportation, said illegal dumping happens more than the department would like and that spring is the most common time for garbage to start piling up.
"I think people don't want to necessarily pay the fees that they need to in order to take it to the dump," he said. "There's only a couple reasons if you're going to drive something down the highway that you'd do that, right?"
The NWT Motor Vehicles Act states no one can deposit glass, nails, tacks, metal or any rubbish or waste alongside a highway, or be subject to a fine and demerit points. Conway said the department makes every effort to track down the perpetrators when items are abandoned, especially if a member of the public sees the littering in progress.
"They should phone the police or municipal enforcement with a description of the driver and the licence plate number, and if they can get a picture it's even better," he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) is also on the case, said Judy McLinton, spokesperson for the department.
"The debris left on the side of the Ingraham Trail is unacceptable. Environment and Natural Resources is currently trying to determine who left the material there," she said.
As for Tiemessen, she said she wonders why it's the public's responsibility to find the perpetrators. "Things in the past have gotten dumped and they've traced it back. But why is it somebody else's responsibility," she said, adding she worries that if the Department of Transportation gets in the habit of picking up trash, dumping will become a regular occurrence.
"It's setting a precedent that it is allowed and that it is acceptable and DOT is going to clean up your mess for you," she said.
The Department of Transportation did remove the fuel tanks in question on June 29.
But according to ENR, residents are responsible for properly managing their own waste.
"This is especially important when it comes to waste like oil tanks and fuel drums," said McLinton.
"(They) can contain residues that are hazardous to human health and the environment. These hazardous waste materials must be disposed of properly in municipal landfills."
The Yellowknife dump will accept these drums, as long as they are cut open and empty, for a fee.
McLinton says residents are encouraged to phone the government's 24-hour spill report line or report illegal dumpers to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or the Department of Transportation.
Editor's note: This story should have appeared in the July 4 capital edition of News/North but because of breaking news, it was held for this edition of Yellowknifer.