Trent Ernst, Editor
On any given day when the dump is open, you’ll find people down there, scavenging.
Sometimes, it’s just someone looking for a part to fix something at home.
Often, though, it will be one of a group of people who have taken to rummaging around the dump and picking off all the parts that can be returned for cash.
This is creating tension between different user groups as well as the town.
“They’re just a bunch of giant ravens,” says Bill Wood. Wood is down at the dump regularly, dropping of vehicles that have been abandoned in his job as tow truck driver, or just getting rid of junk in his job at Embassy Maintenance. “As soon as you pull in, they swarm you like ravens on a garbage bag.”
“The town has garbage pick-up,” says Wood, “But sometimes people just want to do it themselves. Maybe they want the exercise. Maybe they have big stuff the town won’t take. But when you try and come and you have these people swarming you and ‘helping you…’. They say they are helping, but they are going through your garbage before you have a chance to unload. With the tow truck, they climb up on the deck, and I tell them to get away because someone is going to get hurt, and they get mad at me because I am trying to insure they don’t get hurt.”
Wood says he has no problem with people coming to the dump to grab a piece to fix a hot water tank or washing machine. He’s done it himself. But he says there are people down at the dump doing it as a business. “They’re taking it for their own personal gain. They come in and they make sure they get everything before anyone else is able to, and they take it to a place like Fort St. John and they sell it for a profit. What they’re doing is they’re stealing from the town, and the town is letting them. It used to be called the Tumbler Ridge WalMart, but it’s not that anymore.”
Dale Hull is one of those “oversized ravens”. But he says anyone who thinks he’s in it for the money is silly. “This is retired people’s heaven,” he says. “And it’s a good place to recycle. I do this for fun. I have a severely bad heart, so I come down here for the exercise and to recycle some valuable products. We don’t make any money at it. It pays for the gas.”
Hull appeared before council to discuss what is happening at the dump. He brought with him a list of people who have put their name on a petition.
The trouble is, says Hull, the town is putting in bins. This means that the people who have been going down there to find parts are not going to be able to any more. “If someone fell in, they would be in danger of injury.” He proposes that the District have a place outside the bin where things can be placed, then, once people have had a chance to go over the stuff, then use a loader to push the waste into the bin.”
Hull says that with the mines closing, people have no place to go and have no money to get things fixed. They will go to the dump and find what they need. But if people are not allowed to search for what they need, it will increase their expense.
Tumbler Ridge, says Hull, is the last place that allows it and that is a good thing. He says that most appliances that are thrown away are still working, and only there because someone saw something newer and fancier. The recycling record in North America is dismal, he says, and getting worse. “Recycling from anywhere should not be stopped or frowned upon and our leaders should be the ones to lead us”
The petition says “Installing dumpsters and weigh scales to start charging the people of Tumbler Ridge s not the direction the world is going, why go backwards…”
Mayor Wren says he is confused, as the petition says there are going to be weigh scales and charge on dumping. “This council has had no conversation about installing scales, on charging people,” says Wren. “It reads as if that’s going to happen, and it’s not.” He says the council is trying to improve on recycling. “Anything that can be recycled, we want to recycle. The question is how?”
Operations Manager Doug Beale says that the purpose of the bins is to improve operations at the transfer station. “There’s been quite a mess down there,” he says. “We recycle batteries, tires, etc. the company that was doing recycling for us before came in and left a mess behind.” He says that the dump, in order to keep people from dumping things illegally, is accepting things that it shouldn’t be. “We shouldn’t be accepting fridges with Freon, vehicles with fluid, that sort of thing.”
The new bins are taken off property by ABC Recycling, and the District gets a certain amount of revenue for that. Beale says the purpose of the bins is to keep the landfill clean. “In the past we have done damage to our machines in piling stuff.”
Bill Woods says that it’s not just the District machinery that gets damaged. When access to the dumping area is blocked, people start dumping farther and farther back, causing the pile to expand and increasing the likelihood of a flat tire. “Nobody wants to spend $300 just to take their stuff to the dump.”
Beale says that the biggest issue is that people are not supposed to be salvaging at the dump. “It clearly states on the gate that salvage has to be authorized, but I have never authorized any salvaging at the dump.”
Wren says that if people are taking stuff from the dump, they are taking revenue from the District. “We want to recycle,” he says. “The best thing is to get together with Mr Beale and see what opportunities there are.”
Hull says that he has tried calling a few times but hasn’t heard back from Beale. “What this town should have is a place and a person who takes all the parts off and recycles them. Things like alternators and radiators.”
Hull says that if you can reduce the amount of waste, it’s even more effective than recycling “We’ve seen washers and driers here that haven’t even been used. It’s ridiculous. We should be grabbing those and taking them to Housing for Humanity in Prince George. They’d love those in their houses. Have volunteers take them to Prince George. If you [had a way for people to share or donate] I’m sure half the stuff wouldn’t even be here.”