Township looks at increase in dumping fines

Council votes to look at other communities' 'best practices' for dealing with illegal soil deposits and construction waste

Residents who practise illegal dumping on farmland could soon be facing stiffer penalties, as the Township of Langley starts a review of their current policies.

A motion by Coun. Petrina Arnason passed unanimously at Township council on March 7 to have staff review the best practices used in other municipalities and jurisdictions for illegal dumping. In the motion, Arnason requested that staff report back with potential policy changes to consider a shorter time frame for enforcement, stiffer fines and escalating fines based on length of non-compliance.

From a policy level, Arnason hopes to “send a clear message of deterrence” and to “undermine” the profitability for those who take illegal waste and other soil products onto their farmland.

Although illegal dumping is a problem across the region, Arnason said the Township has the unique situation of being surrounded by 75 per cent agricultural lands, creating a large geographic area to monitor.

“I think this is really important to underline that we are not inadvertently attracting soil deposits from other jurisdictions if our penalties are too lax,” she said.

“I think we need to seriously look at how we can contribute more of a penalty and disincentive so that this is not something that people are somewhat encouraged to do just because of the economics.”

Arnason’s motion complements the new anti-dumping strategy passed by council in April, 2015 that allots $250,000 towards litter blitzes, tip lines, surveillance cameras and rewriting of existing regulations. This is mainly to target those who are dumping garbage, construction waste and large items like sofas on the side of the road, Township director of public works Roeland Zwaag told The Times.

“That is different than this illegal dumping (in Arnason’s motion) which has to do with soil deposits (and) construction waste that gets filled on ALR land. So the two are not the same,” Zwaag said.

It is important to curb illegal dumpers to protect neighbouring properties and historical drainage patterns, Zwaag added.

“Without this bylaw — we’ve seen it over the years — people fill in low lying areas, wet areas, water courses, to improve their own land. But by doing so, are creating consequences for the neighbours and the drainage area,” he said.

Metro Vancouver is also working on a initiative to create a regional strategy to combat illegal dumping, Coun. Bob Long said.

“I appreciate the fact that we’re going to check with other municipalities and jurisdictions and I think that’s always really important when you’re looking at assessing fines and penalties and bylaws and so forth that affect a region,” Long said. “Because if you’re lower than everybody else, well then that could be why you’re attracting business. But then at the same time, you don’t want to be too much higher than others, too. So having some kind of a gauge with what the neighbours are doing and other jurisdictions are doing is important.”

Coun. Charlie Fox said it is upsetting that people are illegally putting fill on properties and are either “claiming ignorance” or showing “lack of concern” with riparian areas, streams and “fundamental use of farmland.”

“I think it is always good to visit this, and revisit it,” he said.