Endless loads of illegal trash

Chelsea Powrie

It's becoming an epidemic — truckloads worth of illegally dumped trash and debris deposited illegally on Penticton Indian Band land on a daily basis. 

"We're spending like $1,000 a day to clean up someone else's garbage," said PIB Natural Resources member Timmothy Lezard. 

He works with the Guardian Program, a team of community members who have been working for roughly three years to patrol PIB lands watching for trespassers and garbage dumpers. 

"All over the reserve, and our reserve is 46,000-plus acres, and there's dumps all the way from Summerland down to Kaleden," Lezard said. 

The Campbell Mountain landfill has waived tipping fees for the group so it's free for them to deposit the waste they find, but there are still a lot of man hours and mileage that go into keeping the PIB trash-free. 

"Yesterday we brought 13 loads of metal to our recycling place, that's all we did all day, just pick up metal," Lezard explained, as an example of their busy days. "The household garbage we'll have to bring to the landfill."

And it's not always straightforward garbage pickup. As summer progresses, they have seen more and more illegal camps, and been forced to deal with the debris the people leave behind. 

"There's a lot of sites that have a lot of needles and with people camping and stuff, they have to go to the bathroom somewhere," Lezard said, adding the teams do their best to be safe with potential biohazards with tools and safe disposal materials. 

When they come across camps, they do their best to help the individuals living there, rather than putting the entire setup in the trash. They speak to the occupants or, if nobody is home, they place written notices on the tents or shelters letting them know they are on PIB land. 

"Along with the notices we ask them, 'Do you know where you can get food and shelter,' and things like that," Lezard explained. "We're not just giving them an eviction notice, we're giving them references for where they can go in the city."

Above all, the dumping and illegal occupant problem comes down to a lack of respect, Lezard said. 

"We want to make sure that people are respectful of our land, and that's one of the things we want to get across," Lezard said. "If people just did what they're supposed to, and just would be respectful and bring it to the place where they can be reused or made into something different, those are the things we would hope people would do."  

To report illegal dumping on PIB land, contact the PIB Natural Resources Department at 250-492-0411. Connect with the Guardian Program online here

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