By Steve Hubrecht

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Illegal dumping on Crown land, particularly on Toby Benches and along Westside Road is a growing problem and local conservation officers are seeking information after a large pile of used mechanical equipment, including car batteries, was dumped and set ablaze recently.

Invermere resident George Oliver was out walking on the Benches with a friend on a small double track near Sandy Bend Road on Sunday, Dec. 3. They saw a large unattended fire and investigated, finding that the burning pile contained at least two car batteries, a transmission, plastic tarps, glass, plastic bottles and other miscellaneous industrial trash. 

“We are seeing more and more illegal dumping of waste,” Oliver explained to the Pioneer. “This abandoned burning pile of industrial and domestic waste is the most egregious example of illegal dumping that we have seen. Other commonly seen items are appliances, broken concrete, tires, wood waste, including preserved wood, animal body parts, yard waste, glass, plastic and metal.”

The fire was set on a grassy hillside, and it was fortunate that it had snowed lightly the evening before, as that helped keep the fire from spreading, outlined Oliver.

“It was bad,” he said. “It was not just yard waste, it’s clearly not good for the environment.”

He’s noticed similar incidences of dumping and of burning along Westside Road, often in an area known as Poplar Flats, near Horsethief Creek.

“It is a popular spot for parties, and unfortunately for dumping too,” he said, adding the problem has been an issue for a long time, but has gotten much worse in recent years.

Local conservation officers investigated the fire near Sandy Bend Road.

“Those are very unusual objects to be set on fire. It is rare we get a report like that, of burning industrial materials,” senior Invermere conservation officer Greg Kruger told the Pioneer. “Those materials don’t burn to disintegration, and it certainly has a negative impact on the environment, especially the acid and lead from the car batteries.”

Kruger said that “based on the materials, we believe it was a shop clean-up from a local resident.” He surmises the dumper wanted to avoid paying the tipping fees at the Windermere landfill and so dumped the waste on Crown land instead.

“It’s unfortunate. Someone trying to save a few dollars with no consideration of the environment,” said Kruger.

Like Oliver, the conservation officers see plenty of illegal dumping north and west of Wilmer. 

“Throughout that whole area off Westside Road. Any spur road, any turkey trail, we have dumping happening there. Likely for similar reasons (to avoid tipping fees),” said Kruger. “Yes, it seems to be getting progressively worse. We are interested to find out who is doing this and we will investigate any tips we get.”

Nobody has come forward so far with information about who the responsible party is, but Kruger pointed out that illegal burning and dumping can carry a $575 penalty under the B.C. Environmental Management Act and a possible summons to appear in court.

Anyone with tips can phone the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877- 952-7277.