Kimberly Barrett and her husband were hiking to their Howley cottage recently when something unusual caught her eye.
In a natural setting Barrett calls pristine and gorgeous, a discarded television stood out.
When she looked around, she was appalled at what she found: cupboards, chairs, Styrofoam, children’s toys, household garbage and other items, all dumped down an embankment and scattered among the trees.
A pile of waste dumped illegally in the middle of nowhere.
A hiker and nature lover, Barrett said the discovery was disheartening and such behaviour is inexcusable.
She had hoped Newfoundlanders would show greater respect to the environment.
“I’m totally disgusted,” she told SaltWire Network. “We’re proud Newfoundlanders, we love our woods, we’re campers, hikers and fishers — nature lovers — yet some of us choose to toss all this stuff just into the woods. It just blows my mind.”
Barrett, who lives in Corner Brook, said the waste is located approximately one kilometre west of the Howley turn off, on the first woods road on the left. She figures it's a 100-metre drive to the right to the open area where the garbage is located.
She assumes it’s been there for a while as some of the cans are rusty.
Barrett thought she might find something to identify the person who dumped the material but was unsuccessful.
A couple days after her discovery, she took to the Hiking in Newfoundland and Labrador Facebook page to express her outrage and share photos of what she found.
The post attracted more than 100 comments, with many people voicing their displeasure.
“I don’t usually post anything but this just got me,” she said.
Barrett has long been aware there is an illegal dumping problem.
For years, she said, waste — including televisions and furniture — has been dumped along Lady Slipper Road near Corner Brook.
In fact, since she discovered the waste along the woods road, she's spotted two more TVs dumped along the side of the highway near Howley.
No site for electronics
Residents in the Deer Lake area don’t currently have anywhere close to drop off their electronics.
Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball said he found out about three weeks ago that the designated location for recycling electronics, Hebert Recycling, had closed.
He says the town may consider opening its own site.
Hebert Recycling would have serviced Deer Lake and surrounding communities, including residents of Howley about 30 minutes away.
Currently, residents in the area would have to drive to Corner Brook or to the Hampden Junction landfill to dispose of their electronics.
Meanwhile, any garbage would have to be disposed of at Hampden Junction as the old Deer Lake landfill has been decommissioned.
Ball believes there has been an increase in illegal dumping in recent years, as residents find it increasingly inconvenient and costly to dispose of waste.
“Before, it’d be three minutes up the road,” he told SaltWire. “Now, if you’re in Deer Lake on a Saturday, you got to drive 45 minutes to the Hampden site or 40 minutes to the Corner Brook site. When you get there, you got to pay to dump it. You got the gas, you got the dumping fees and you got half the day gone.”
He said this doesn’t excuse the behaviour of people who dump illegally, but it does help explain why it happens.
He believes better enforcement is needed to prevent illegal dumping.
“There has to be something done (so police can) catch people, and when they are caught, you need to be able to make it so that they’re not going to do it again,” he said. “You can’t give somebody a slap on the wrist.”
Fines range from $500 to $10,000 for individuals and from $1,000 to $1 million for corporations convicted of illegal dumping.
Anyone can anonymously report illegal waste dumping by calling NL Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), visiting www.nlcrimestoppers.com to submit a tip or by downloading the free P3 Tips App on their smartphone.
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Municipalities, from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, Crime Stoppers received 48 anonymous tips about illegal dumping.
Anyone who discovers illegally dumped material within a municipality can also report it directly to that municipality.
Outside of a municipality, it can also be reported through the local Digital Government and Service NL Environmental Protection Office.
More information on illegal dumping can be found at https://rethinkwastenl.ca/3rs/illegal-dumping.
Stephen Roberts is a reporter covering the west coast of Newfoundland.