Along the Fraser: Garbage again at truck stop

Ministry removes receptacles at truck rest and weigh station west of Albion on Lougheed Highway.

Garbage is accumulating at the truck stop in Maple Ridge.

Garbage is accumulating at the truck stop in Maple Ridge.

“That’s lame. I’m offended by that” – former Maple Ridge mayor Ernie Daykin.

 

Ernie Daykin was referring to the ministry of highway’s explanation for removing garbage receptacles at the truck rest and weigh station west of Albion on the Lougheed Highway in 2014.

Thanks to him, they were there in the first place.

“They’re gone?” he said when I stopped him on the street.  “Really? I can’t believe it.”

It’s true, I said. The ministry removed them without bothering to tell city operations manager Walter Oleschak.

“He was as surprised as you.”

The move points out the province’s reluctance to collaborate with Maple Ridge on pressing highway concerns.

In May 2014, the rest stop was a dump for refuse – solvents, household garbage bedding, machinery, and four-litre plastic containers of urine.

“When the government doesn’t provide truckers with proper toilets and garbage bins,” trucker Allister Cathcart, who condemned the practice, told me, “some bad drivers get rid of their waste any place they can.”

There’s a segment on such jugs on Trailer Park Boys.

Local public health officials today wouldn’t say if urine poses a health threat.

But ministry spokesperson Kylee O’Dell recently referred to it as “bio-hazardous waste.”

The ministry should have solved both problems. Rest stop maintenance is its responsibility, but “the plan isn’t to put the bins back,” O’Dell says.

The ministry is “monitoring” the situation.

For how long? In 2014, Daykin said the ministry “threatened to close the truck stop.”

That’s one way to make problems go away.

Today, uncut grass hides any jugs in the ditch.

Both Oleschak and Daykin wonder what the ministry thinks wasn’t working here.

The bins weren’t serving their purpose, explained O’Dell.

Residents were dumping  household garbage in them.

Because Maple Ridge doesn’t have city-organized garbage service.

But the free dumping area has been taken away.

Daykin isn’t any happier now than he was in 2014, when the province contemplated closing the Maple Ridge stop.

The city installed a city bin, cleaned out a gully containing jugs, and erected a sign warning of fines for littering.

Oleschak recalls that the ministry looked at the city bin and said, ‘Good, but it doesn’t look like enough.’”

So the ministry removed the city bin and put four of its own there.

But then they were all removed.

Oleschak is puzzled.

“We have bins in the city. Some shop owners will dump packing in them, but there’s always room for coffee cups.”

“Isn’t that better than doing nothing?” asked Daykin.

Of course.

And if bins aren’t the ministry’s answer, a billion-dollar budget surplus should produce a solution before another two years.

Maybe the RCMP could monitor the stop and lay charges?

Fines work.

O’Dell said the ministry approached the cops, but hasn’t heard back.

Oleschak had another idea.

“In Manitoba, truck drivers were given a key to unlock garbage cans for their own use,” he noted.

Today, there’s card keys to unlock hotel elevators. There’s truck rests with toilets and garbage cans east of Agassiz on Highway 7 and another in the little town of Yale.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Is Maple Ridge just not on the province’s radar for road improvement as we approach yet another election?

 

– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.