Jan Toom stared in disgust at the mounds of garbage littering the trailhead at Fishboat Bay, near Shirley. The ugly sight ended what would have been a beautiful day mountain biking trek in the backcountry for Toom.
“It’s disgusting,” he said. “It’s got to stop.”
Unfortunately, it’s a familiar sight in the region – and getting worse.
Toom, who moved to Shirley eight months ago from Squamish, has seen his share of illegal trash sites from Fishboat Bay to Young Road and everything in between.
Instead of complaining about it, though, he felt compelled to do something about it.
“I decided to look into it more and discovered week after week more garbage was piling up. It just wasn’t acceptable,” Toom said.
He found garbage bags, old couches, building materials, even animal carcasses.
So with the help of his wife, Meg, he organized a cleanup and got sponsorship from the Otter Point, Shirley and Jordan River Resident and Ratepayers Association, also known as OPSRRA, Mainroad Contracting, Hartland Landfill and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.
On Friday, residents and groups worked for more than 10 hours and collected more than 5.5 tons of illegal trash – two tons at one location alone.
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks applauded everyone involved in the project, and vowed to catch those responsible for the illegal dumping.
“The big work is the enforcement to stop the dumping and we’ve [the Capital Regional District] initiated a $10,000 fine, Neighbourhood Watch program and we’re going to catch people if they dump, and if they do we’re going for the full maximum $10,000 fine,” he said.
Don Brown, manager of bylaw and animal care for the CRD, said illegal dumping is a problem in the region.
“People don’t want garbage dumped in their backyard. People are reporting to us, they’re reporting it to the police.”
Most investigations of illegal trash are complaint driven, and while the initial fine can be as low as $100 per incident it can go as high as $10,000, a judge could also order the site be cleaned up and the perpetrator pay court costs.
Brown encourages anyone who sees illegal dumping to get a description of the suspect and if possible a vehicle description and call police at 250-642-5241 or the CRD at 250-360-3000.
For Toom it’s not just about enforcement, but awareness, too.
“It’s a NIMBY mentality. People are willing to take it into someone else’s backyard and get rid of stuff they don’t want,” he said. “We want to start raising awareness, so people get the fact that we’re kind of tired of the illegal dumping in our backyard.”
Toom hopes to continue the cleanup at least twice a year.
“I think there’s a lot of reasons why it hasn’t be dealt with before because residents are frustrated that nothing ever seems to happen. I’m saying there is something we can do about it, and we’re doing it today.”
Recycling options available in Sooke
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks calls anyone who illegal dump trash are “lazy and cheap,” but there are options to get rid of garbage or unwanted materials throughout the region.
– Sooke Disposal and Recycling – Picks up garbage in the Sooke region. Please call 250-642-3646.
– Sooke Auto Recycling – Takes scrap metal, old appliances, oil and antifreeze. Please call 250-642-4456.
– Alpine Disposal – Commercial recycling. Please call 250-642-4040.
– Sooke Bottle Depot – Bottles that require any kind of returns. Please 250-744-8906.