The problem of illegal dumping along rural roads has reared its ugly head again this spring, but this year the MD of Foothills is preparing to fight back.
There have been several instances of dumping along roads in the Foothills, including areas along Dunbow Road and most recently at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area.
Greg Shyba, executive director of the Cross Conservation Area, said it’s a fairly regular problem in the area.
“Unfortunately, there are a couple of spots that, for some reason, people tend to dump quite a bit of garbage on them,” said Shyba. “It is a problem for us, a common problem.”
He said there isn’t a lot of traffic along 85 Street, which is where a lot of the dumping tends to occur. In the past they’ve found televisions, grow-op apparatus, chairs, cushions, and other household goods on the property.
Last week, a load of renovation materials from a bathroom were left on the conservation lands, including an old toilet, construction materials and boxes, he said. Though a Canadian Tire card receipt was found in the debris, without positive identification of the offenders there isn’t anything Foothills Patrol or RCMP can do, he said.
“I’m kind of hoping whoever hired that contractor might say, ‘Hey, this is the guy, I paid him to do it and this is what he did,’” said Shyba.
But even knowing which contractor was hired for the job may not be enough. Under the law, a witness must be able to prove identity of the person responsible for the dumping beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
The MD is taking steps to make it easier to catch perpetrators in the act.
MD of Foothills council voted on April 5 to purchase cameras to be installed at various locations throughout the MD, in an attempt to catch the people responsible.
“We’re just going to pick places and move the cameras around, and we’re hopeful that we’re going to be able to eventually catch these people,” said MD Mayor Larry Spilak.
He said he’s certain there are only a handful of people dumping in the MD, but they do so on a regular basis. There have been loads left in the ditches along Dunbow road on several occasions, he said.
Most recently, at the beginning of April, a notable amount of concrete and building materials was dumped.
Spilak said it costs the municipality to have the landfill clean up the dump sites.
“It’s too costly, and it’s not nice to look at for residents,” said Spilak. “Our only recourse is to catch them in the act, and we hope these cameras will allow that to happen.”
Foothills protective services co-ordinator Darlene Roblin said the cameras are a good preventative measure, but there may still be some difficulty getting positive IDs on the offenders in order to charge them and issue the $500 fine.
She said the trick is, once someone is caught on camera or in a photograph, whether someone can identify them.
“Hopefully cameras deter people from doing things because they know they’re being filmed,” said Roblin. “It’s a campaign of awareness and education and trying to discourage the behaviour.”
She said the cameras can also help by capturing license plate numbers. MD bylaws allow officers to charge the registered owner of a vehicle for the offence, similar to photo radar tickets, she said.
In her 14 years with the MD, Roblin said there has never been a charge laid for illegal dumping. With cameras in the areas she hopes the MD will see the end to an ongoing problem.
“It’s a difficult thing to deal with,” said Roblin. “We often get the call after the fact when people have come across the garbage and we don’t know who dumped it, and nobody has seen any vehicles.”
Residents are encouraged to keep a watchful eye and report and photograph any suspicious activity to help bring charges to offenders, she said.
On evenings and weekends, reports can be made to the RCMP, she said.
“If you don’t know if they’re there to dump garbage or if they’re casing properties, if it’s anything suspicious, we do encourage people to get a licence plate number and vehicle description,” said Roblin. “The public are our eyes and ears out there, and the more information we can get from them, that gives us a starting point.”