Surrey residents are fed up with illegal dumpers messing up our City of Parks. So what is city hall doing about it?
Though illegal dumping makes up only an estimated 0.012 per cent of the total annual solid waste generated in Surrey, its repercussions are serious.
It attracts rats, contaminates soil and water, and taxpayers are hit with the cost of collecting it. Moreover, it’s an eyesore and its presence sends the message that other unwanted activities are also tolerated in the vicinity.
Some people are blogging about it. For example, there is an interesting website called Keep Canada Clean – Planting ideas for a cleaner and greener Canada, which identifies itself as “A project to raise awareness and reduce garbage and litter in Surrey, BC.”
Residents are also using a City of Surrey app to report illegal dumping – by calling 604-591-4152 or downloading the Surrey Request App – as well as making use of several convenient trash-disposal programs set up by the city which, in 2015, set the ambitious goal of reducing illegal dumping in Surrey, and its associated costs, by 50 per cent, by 2020.
There are obstacles, as well as the means to achieve this 2020 goal, according to Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne, who also sits on the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors and Metro Vancouver Zero Waste committee.
“There’s a whole bunch of issues surrounding this topic and a bunch of factors that are contributing to it,” Hayne said of illegal dumping in Surrey. “Every time, for instance, Metro Vancouver increases its drop-off charges at regional transfer stations, we see a direct correlation to an increase in illegal dumping. They don’t want to pay, it’s just way easier to drop it at the side of a dark country road, or well, they dump it seemingly anywhere these days.”
From Metro’s perspective, he said, the fees – $15 to $117, with a transaction fee of $5 per load and $133 per tonne of garbage up to .99 tonnes – are simply a “cost-recovery thing.” But it’s cities like Surrey “that feel it every time that they increase rates, and so there is a direct correlation. In the end we’re tracking it down. These things are contributing to illegal dumping.”
If dumping fees are kept down, Hayne posits, there will be less illegal dumping.
Harry Janda, Surrey’s solid waste and contracts manager, told the Now-Leader the city is streamlining its services and harvesting some success as a result.
He said illegal dumping “predominantly occurs in the northwest quadrant” of Surrey. Seventy per cent of incidents involve single items dumped curbside and 30 per cent are in secluded spots and generally consist of contruction materials and household garbage, explained.
That said, Surrey city councillor Dave Woods says he sees evidence of illegal dumping all over the place.
|Surrey city councillor Dave Woods. (Photo: Now-Leader).|
“It just drives me crazy. All around Surrey,” Woods said.
“I’m probably the biggest reporter; I phone my assistant and say, ‘Hey, tell them to get this couch off of here, tell them to get the mattress off of here…it’s just people taking the stuff and just dumping it. I’m in the Grandview area, and there’s lots of bush there, it just drives me nuts. The thing is, is that there’s construction stuff, just dropped off. It’s not unique to where I live, it’s a Lower Mainland problem.
“I go to Cloverdale, I see it around there,” he added. “I think I’ve got my assistant phone in illegal dumping just about every corner of Surrey that I’ve been in.
“When I was in the police,” the former Surrey Mountie said, “we had some dumping in the Cloverdale area, I will say that, but no way was it to the extent that it is now. Not even close. It’s a real problem. You’ve gotta take some civic pride in where you live. And the other thing that drives me crazy, is, ‘all you need to do is phone the city and they’ll come and pick it up.’ Pure laziness, that’s all it is. It’s just outright pure laziness.”
Since 2007, illegal dumping has cost the city $8,532,875. This year, Janda said, the city is projecting the cost for cleaning up after illegal dumpers to be 42 per cent lower than in 2015. That’s $530,000 in 2017 compared to $930,000 in 2015, the city’s highest expenditure since 2007.
It should be noted these numbers are based on the number of incidents of illegal dumping that are reported to the city. There were 9,499 in 2015, 7,185 in 2016 and 6,674 in 2017. That, of course, does not factor in illegal dumping yet to be discovered, or reported on.
“That’s the other issue,” Hayne said, “is reporting the illegal dumping, and that’s where Surrey’s app is so good. I’ve used it to report on illegal dumping on several occasions, and you get a very quick response, particularly when it’s on public property. The app asks you what’s the nature of what’s being dumped and then it asks is it on city property or is it on private property. Of course if it’s on private property then it goes to unsightly premise and then it’s a bylaw issue whereas if it’s on city property we just go out, get a truck and pick it up. That’s very effective so if you see a mattress or bags of garbage somewhere on the side of the road, the Surrey app is very good at getting a really quick response to that.”
The Now-Leader asked Hayne how the money Surrey spends on fighting illegal dumping is actually spent.
“That’s having crews out constantly, and the trucks and the crews that do that. Of course we have to dispose of that material and we pay for the disposal of that material that residents would have paid. We can’t just dispose of mattresses for free.”
So, essentially, that’s hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent responding to laziness?
“That’s right, that’s right. It’s just unacceptable. It is absolutely a regional problem, you know, and you see at the end of the month when people move, there’s a spike particularly with things like old mattresses and that sort of thing that are arguably difficult to move.
“We monitor the tonnage that we collect,”Hayne notes. “We take it up to the transfer station, on behalf of lazy residents. So, we have exact tonnage counts as far as the waste that we collect.”
Hayne says the inconvenience for some Surrey residents having to transport their extra trash all the way to Port Kells, the site of Surrey’s only waste transfer station, in the northeast part of the city, contributes to illegal dumping.
“I think if it were even free there’d be people that would just dump because they don’t want to be bothered going up to Port Kells and so on, to the transfer station.”
The city councillor argues that Surrey’s “biggest bang for the buck” is voluntary compliance through convenience and education.
|Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne. (Photo: Now-Leader).|
“It’s proven that the easier you make it for people to do something, the more compliance you are going to get. The more difficult it is, the more non-compliance you are going to have.”
Therefore, one strategy toward reaching the 2020 goal, he says, is to spare residents who live far from Port Kells the need to go there.
“We are getting a new community drop-off location that’s going to paid for by Metro Vancouver. I believe it’s going to be in the Newton area,” Hayne said.
“By adding a second facility in Surrey, that is going to help, I think, dramatically. That’s one thing that we’re doing. Surrey will be paying for the recycling portion of that facility but Metro will be paying for the drop-off component of it.”
He says another strategy to achieving the 2020 goal is to provide alternatives to illegal dumping.
“A lot of it is making it more convenient for people to do the right thing,” Hayne said. “Coming up with the most convenient ways to allow people to get rid of unwanted items will be the best way, rather than the punitive increasing fines, because, I mean let’s face it, it’s very hard to catch people.”
That would likely explain why only seven fines and 189 “property clean” notices have been handed out this year.
“It is hard to catch people. We had some broken cameras at some point; I think we still do, in fact, in high-traffic and high-dumping areas.”
Meantime, Hayne says the Pop-Up Junk Drop Program has been “wildly successful. People have waited, actually, in long lines, because they are so successful, to drop off things at a local facility.” This program, for Surrey residents only, sets out dates where people who need to get rid of big items can drop them off, for free, at the Surrey Operations Centre parking lot in Newton.
Hayne said the city will continue this program and increase the number of dates “as necessary. So that is another piece, we hope, that will alleviate illegal dumping.”
Last year there were six “pop-up” events, and four this year. In 2016, roughly 1,250,000 kilograms of waste was collected and 68 per cent was recycled. More than 100 tonnes of reusable stuff was recovered by non-profit agencies.
This year, about 100,000,000 kilograms of waste was collected, 62 per cent was recycled and 56 tonnes was recovered by non-profit agencies.
During both years, an average of 1,600 vehicles visit each event.
There’s also the Large Item Pick Up program, where residents can call 604-590-7289 (Option 3) to have four large items, per year, hauled away.
“From a city perspective we have to get more proactive with our communications that that is an available option to people,” Hayne said. “It’s just a phone call away.”
This year, 39,000 residents have taken advantage of it, compared to 45,662 over 2016 and 34,173 over 2015.
Still, despite all these efforts, the proverbial jury’s still out.
“Five years now along Holt Road it is a dumping ground for furniture, drywall and other miscellaneous building materials, clothes, electronics,” Surrey resident Vicki Eng told the Now-Leader.
“The City of Surrey once a week has to send a crew out to clean up the mess along both sides of the road for three blocks. Two days after the clean-up, the area is back being a dump ground.
“People in the area do not appreciate this mess from others who do not wish to dispose of it in the proper manner.”
She says the city’s No Dumping signs posted in her neighbourhood have been ignored for years.
“It might be a good idea if they would put up cameras to catch the individuals and stop them.”
Liz Irwin, on the other hand, reports success using the Surrey Request App in Whalley.
“Every time I have used the app, city workers have come out and removed the garbage. This has been around the Central City area.”
But Ivan Trepanier, of Newton, is not so satisfied.
“There is garbage in the walkway today and city trucks drive by and garbage does not move,” he noted.
He and his wife have phoned the bylaws department “lots of times,” he told the Now-Leader.
“Some times they show up then other times they don’t. If we don’t pick it up it will stay there and this is a walk way that is used by a 100 or more people a day. I’m disgusted by the city hiking up our property tax and we have to do the work.”