Last week had its share of rotten moments. Rotten weather. Rotten potholes. Even rotten whales.
But for what it’s worth, it wasn’t the pea soup-thick fog, the craters on the Ring Road or the putrid-smelling whale carcass at Trout River that stand out as last week’s low points.
The weather and the potholes were a given. As for the beached blue whale, soon to be removed from the Trout River waterfront, it was more curiosity than travesty (assuming it doesn’t explode in the next few days).
They were pretty unpleasant, but not enough to sour a week. Rather, it was another rotten subject that trashed a foggy, pothole-ridden, but mostly typical seven days.
Last week, the City of St. John’s hosted a news conference on illegal dumping, marking the first time the city spoke out about charges laid against people caught illegally dumping since it installed cameras at known dumping sites around the city in 2013.
It proved discouraging news.
City council displayed images of furniture, refrigerators and trash bags as just some of the items scattered at illegal dumping sites around St. John’s — eyesores tucked away in the capital city of a province that likes to tout its natural beauty.
RNC Supt. Jim Carroll said five people, including a Canada Post employee from C.B.S. who was caught on camera illegally dumping junk mail, have been charged under the Environmental Protection Act with the help of the city’s new surveillance equipment. Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, for his part, promised undiscriminating punishment for future dumpers.
“We have more than enough cameras to cover the sites that we’ve identified,” O’Keefe said. “If we get anybody on candid camera — and we've gotten them — then we're going to prosecute,” he said.
The City of St. John’s has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal dumping. And no wonder, given how easy the government makes it for people to get rid of their trash.
For people to spend their time and energy loading up their vehicles with old couches and mattresses, only to dump them at the end of backwoods roads instead of at Robin Hood Bay, already seems unthinkable.
But to do so when the city offers a bulk garbage pickup service — and completely free of charge, at that — boggles the mind.
Still, people do it. And still the city grinds its teeth trying to come up with some other way to stem the problem.
St. John’s isn’t alone in its self-proclaimed “war” on dumping. Other municipalities in the province face the same challenges with regards to illegal dumping, with no better results.
With the difficulties municipalities such as St. John’s face with regards to illegal dumpers, the media attention given last Tuesday’s news conference and the charges laid against alleged offenders was the one bright spot in a story profiling the indefensible ignorance of an unabashedly determined minority — the individuals Clean St. John’s recently branded “litterskeets,” a laughable, but perfect, only-in-Newfoundland name for a group of people whose carelessness contaminates the province’s green spaces.
In a city like St. John’s, where waste-management facilities and garbage pickup are so accessible, the problem has to be awareness.
No one, no matter how uncaring about the environment, would dump their junk in the woods if they knew it was more difficult than an alternative waste disposal method, offered free of charge by the city. If there were no perceived personal advantage to dumping, why would people go out of their way to pollute the environment?
If people knew there was an easier way, they’d trash their delinquent, supposedly corner-cutting practices. Illegally dumping bulk garbage in St. John’s is about ignorance on the part of the public, plain and simple.
The services are there for the taking, but the message clearly hasn’t reached the right individuals.
Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is studying journalism at Carleton
University. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.