Few people dumping garbage in Okanagan forests are actually being fined | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Few people dumping garbage in Okanagan forests are actually being fined

Despite the best efforts of the Okanagan Forest Task Force, very few people are actually being fined for dumping garbage illegally in Okanagan forests.
Image Credit: Dale McKee

Despite the best efforts of community groups during a year that’s showing an uptick in illegal dumping, not very many people are actually being fined.

In 2020, the B.C. Conservation Office issued a total of 18 fines after opening 309 files for either littering or introducing waste into the Okanagan and Merritt regions.

“Anecdotally, the guys are saying there seems to be more incidents this year,” Conservation Officer Insp. Tobe Sprada told iNFOnews.ca. “Whether it’s because of COVID or not, I couldn’t say."

The office doesn’t normally tally littering data so did not have comparative figures from previous years.

The 18 fines are far shy of what the Okanagan Forest Task Force thought was happening after it increased its video surveillance last summer.

Kane Blake, who speaks for the group, said that almost 60 people had been fined in the last six months with pretty well all of those being issued by Conservation Officers.

The Conservation Office data showed there were 90 littering files opened in the North Okanagan, which included the Vernon and Kelowna areas. There were another 65 files opened for the South Okanagan that includes Penticton and Merritt.

Out of those 155 files, 14 tickets for $115 were issued along with 22 warnings. Conservations Officers didn’t actually inspect 67 sites, generally because officers had higher priorities, such as human-wildlife conflicts,at the time, Sprada said.

Another 47 were attended but deemed to be “unfounded,” which means officers could not get enough evidence to issue tickets even if they suspected who the culprit was.

Along with the littering files, there were another 154 files started for what’s termed “introduced waste.” That could be material left by industrial operations or it could be people who were told to clean up their garbage by a set time and failed to comply.

Only four people were issued $575 fines in 2020. There were 13 written warnings.

Of these files, 42 were unsolved, 32 unattended and 27 unfounded.

Blake has said his group, which has voluntarily taken on the task of monitoring backwoods areas and cleaning up illegal dumping sites, has hauled away more than 300,000 pounds of garbage from the bush over the years.

This year, the group bought cameras and have documented people dumping in the bush, including recording licence plate numbers.

Blake said some cameras have taken up to 3,500 photos in a week and some “hot spots” saw up to three illegal dumping events in a week.

Sprada said his records don’t identify an organization, just the person who filed the complaint, so he couldn’t say how many files were triggered by the Okanagan Forest Task Force.

Even though only 18 fines were actually levied in 2020, there were 53 tickets issued altogether, although 35 were only warnings.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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