First Nation land and the environment are being damaged by illegal dumpers in the Penticton region.
In April 2017 alone, the Penticton Indian Band Natural Resource Department collected more than six tons of garbage off Penticton Indian Band land.
“One of these issues is that as soon as we remove, literally tons of garbage, many-many truck loads, they reappear the next week.”
Pepper says while some of the dumping is regular household waste, dangerous and damaging products like vehicles that are torched, chemicals and oils are being dumped as well.
“It is becoming more and more a problem,” said Pepper.
“We have been working on removing numerous garbage dumps every year, we have a program with watchers or guardians that tour around the reserve and spatially reference each dumpsite. Then we do what we can to keep cleaning them up.”
His said his team did a cleanup Monday morning that encompassed 60 garbage bags worth of junk in just one small cleanup.
“They are not only dumping their garbage. They are going out there, dumping cars, shooting cars up, torching cars,” said Pepper.
“We have campers down on the channel who are heavy drug users so there is a lot of needles and toilets, feces and drug paraphernalia, plus their garbage down there. You can imagine the difficulty in cleaning all these things up.”
Pepper said they now co-ordinating with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, the City of Penticton and the RCMP to try and curb this ongoing behaviour.
“It is rampant across the reserve. I think people cross the reserve border and they think it is outside city jurisdiction and they think it is carte blanche approval for them to do what they want,” said Pepper.
“No one entity can deal with this on their own. The PIB is reaching out to the RCMP and the city and the regional district and some NGO groups to try and form coalition to stop illegal dumping.”
One of the sources of the garbage, according to Pepper, is nefarious dumping companies that charge far less than their competitors because they come dump on PIB land.
“Un-reputable companies that tout garbage removal this time of year, they are very cheap, we believe these companies are throwing junk or household waste into their truck and then illegally dumping it,” said Pepper. “That is why they can undercut their competition so much. We have seen the same types of vehicles, because we have hidden cameras set up, come on to the reserve with full loads. I suspect untoward activity like that going on. In addition to people looking for a place in the woods to dump their garbage.”
As for those choosing to illegally dump, Pepper hopes your conscience will come into play.
“If it is a matter of cost, petition the RDOS to reduce or eliminate tipping fees,” said Pepper.
“If it is a matter of convenience. I would say that there are very long-term impacts that result from what you might think is a simple dump in the woods, the long-term implications are significant. It leeches into the soil, it leeches into water systems, constant environmental damage.
“I would hope people have a conscience. It is well worth your time, think of your karma.”