With Worksafe B.C. toughening regulations for handling drywall containing asbestos, illegal dumps are happening across the Lower Mainland, the area around Pitt Lake being one of them.
Hazardous waste handler Phoenix Enterprises was in Pitt Meadows near the gravel quarry on Friday, bagging the carcinogenic substance.
Company project manager Richard Purdy said unscrupulous contractors are most often the culprits.
“A lot of them are doing illegal asbestos removal,” said Purdy.
He added the company comes to Pitt Meadows approximately twice per week, and was headed there again on Thursday afternoon for yet another illegal dump site.
He said do-it-yourselfers should know that household drywall can be brought to the Maple Ridge transfer station for disposal, under a pilot program started by Metro in December.
In December 2015, Worksafe cracked down on the handling of drywall installed before 1990, because the “mud” used often contained asbestos. Companies that handle drywall recycling, like New West Gypsum, were required to do more to protect their workers.
The cost of testing for asbestos is expensive, as is disposal. So some contractors take their loads down a dark rural road late at night and dump it.
“It’s costing taxpayers a ton of money,” said Purdy.
His company is called to these sites about twice a week in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, he said.
It collects about five such dumps in Surrey every day.
“Surrey gets hit hard,” he said. “But it’s an issue everywhere.”
The cost can range from between $150 to $3,000 to dispose of these dumps, he added, and some are so large they would have to be left by a dump truck.
“It’s making it hard for the honest contractors,” said Purdy. “They can’t compete with guys who are doing things illegally.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said illegal dumping is a long-time problem in northern parts of the city.
Maple Ridge superintendent of roads Walter Oleschak said his crews don’t touch dumped drywall until it has been tested for asbestos, at a cost to the city of $300.
If it is asbestos free, city workers clear the dump. But if it contains the asbestos, a hazardous waste handler is contracted to remove it.
“We’ve been getting hit pretty hard,” he said of the illegal dumps. “But recently, it’s been a lot better, and we’ve been working with the RCMP on setting surveillance cameras up in some locations.”
He estimated the cost of removing illegally asbestos-containing drywall at $25,000 for a year.
Transfer station pilot
The do-it-yourself handyman can take up to 10 bags, weighing 10-kilograms each per visit to the Maple Ridge transfer station. The cost is $150 per tonne. The limit is five visits per year.
The station advises residents to wear protective equipment and minimize dust generated, and place the drywall in bags for used gypsum, which can be purchased at Rona and Haney Builders Supplies in Maple Ridge. Instructions require it to be double bagged.
Metro offers residential customers this service in order to accommodate small renovations and alleviate illegal dumping by homeowners.
Metro operates on the assumption that all drywall collected contains asbestos, and it is shipped to a disposal facility in Washington State.
The Langley transfer station is also part of the pilot project.
• For more information, see metrovancouver.org or call 604-432-6200.