Local Rotary group among those looking to help Waterford River
© — Telegram file photo
By Andrew Robinson
A St. John’s resident who has been volunteering to clean up the Waterford River for more than 20 years says the city should do more to keep it clean.
And while Mayor Dennis O’Keefe says the city cannot keep the river litter-free without help from the public, he suggests help could be on the way through an inter-municipal committee that would focus on the river’s health.
Bill Stoyles has lived along the river most of his life. He regularly spots used coffee cups, waste from fast-food outlets, shopping bags and other garbage in the river and on its banks.
“When we started cleaning the river in 1989, we were pulling out stoves, chesterfields, chassis of cars and everything,” said Stoyles. “But the last 10 or 15 years, it has mostly been a scattered tire or a shopping cart, but (it’s) an abundance of litter.”
Stoyles estimates that 100 coffee cups could be retrieved along the river any given day. It stretches across Paradise, Mount Pearl and St. John’s.
The matter has been brought up with council members on multiple occasions, but Stoyles questions whether the City of St. John’s has the will to get anything done. He would like to see the city invest in security cameras to catch those who litter and penalize them for it.
“There’s no consequences to what they do,” said Stoyles.
He has contacted O’Keefe specifically about litter in the city and said the mayor offered to meet him with garbage bags to do the work.
“I’m paying three or four thousand or five thousand dollars in taxes a year to the city, and I don’t expect that I’ve got to go out and clean somebody else’s litter,” said Stoyles.
As a city tasked with many responsibilities, O’Keefe said it needs help from volunteers and community groups to deal with trash that pops up in areas where it doesn’t belong.
“We can’t do it alone, given all the stuff that the city does,” said the mayor.
The city tenders contracts to clean up litter on its streets, including an eight-month contract for the downtown area and a six-week contract in the spring to tackle targeted areas.
O’Keefe said public works staff also engage in cleanup work and that residents who come across large amounts of litter in St. John’s should call 311 so staff can follow up on such complaints.
Security cameras are due to be installed to discourage residents from dumping garbage. The mayor said it may be strategically unwise to discuss where those cameras will be installed.
“We’re not going to say where they’re going to be placed, but they’re going to be placed in areas that are prone to illegal dumping,” he said.
The Rotary Club of Waterford Valley has investigated the possibility of forming an inter-municipal committee that would involve
St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Paradise. Treasurer Sandy Roche said the club has had a long history with the river, having helped establish trails and bridges and assisting with cleanups.
“We’ve done an awful lot for the Waterford River,” he said.
The proposed inter-municipal committee would look to create a co-ordinated approach to tackling issues affecting the river, including planning and development matters. The river’s health would also be on the committee’s agenda.
“We’ve been involved in so many cleanups, and it gets a bit distressing after a while when every year you go out and you go to the same parts of the river that you cleaned up last year, and it’s just as big of a mess this year,” said Roche. “The general public needs to be aware that when you’re crossing over a bridge, (under) which the river flows, and you throw something out your window ... it’s all going to end up in the river.”
O’Keefe met with Rotary representatives last week.
“I thought it was a great idea (and) a great plan,” said the mayor, who advised those at the meeting to let the other municipalities know that the City of St. John’s will be on board.
Stoyles agrees that the Rotary club’s interest in helping the river is good news.
The city financially supports
St. John’s Clean and Beautiful, a non-profit organization that works on public awareness campaigns and helps organize community cleanups.
While Stoyles considers St. John’s Clean and Beautiful’s intentions to be commendable, he said it offers “a Band-Aid on a broken leg.”