Scott Magri peered into a ditch beside the truck rest stop on the Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge last week and shook his head.
“Look at all the crap in here,” the Pitt Meadows resident lamented. “TVs, tires, stereos, milk jugs. That windshield wiper bottle’s three-fourths full. Why would anybody throw it away?”
Magri’s working on a plan to clean up Katzie Slough. Aquatic environment shouldn’t be a garbage dump.
“What I saw didn’t make any sense,” he said.
It did to his companion, a truck driver who’d seen the jugs and bottles before.
“He said it wasn’t wiper fluid,” says Magri, “but pee.”
Allister Cathcart, an Abbotsford trucker who has used the pull-out west of 240th Street confirms this. Cathcart has hauled big rigs across Canada for 12 years.
“If you see something in a jug that looks like lemonade or apple juice,” he says, “you can be sure it’s urine. Every trucker knows this. I pulled in there once and watched guys get out of a Maple Ridge district vehicle and pick up jugs from the ditch and haul them away.”
Cathcart says Hepatitis C – a liver disease – can be spread through urine (medical websites confirm this).
“You can get it in your blood stream through a cut on your hand.”
How common is discarding human waste, I asked.
“All truckers pee in bottles when they’re on the road,” says Cathcart. “Some cut holes in the floors of rigs and drop bowel movements out. A mechanic told me he refused to work on a rig after he saw toilet paper hanging under it. It takes 15 minutes to stop a rig and 15 minutes to get it up and going again. That’s half an hour of your time. Good truckers will do the right thing, though. They’ll get rid of urine and excrement in washrooms. I empty urine jugs at home. That’s what I’ve been told to do. But some guys just don’t care. They say everybody else does it. But they don’t. The guys I talk to don’t like this. Bad truckers give us all a dirty reputation. Why not dispose of it properly?”
The ministry of transport is aware of the urine jugs being left in the Lougheed ditch site. It’s thinking of closing the rest stop down.
Cathcart says that’ll just make life harder for truckers everywhere.
“That’s not a solution,” he says. “Towns should put a fine on the bad truckers. That’ll go around like wild fire. It’ll stop them.
The City of Surrey notes motorists account for 30-50 per cent of all litter there and warns truckers of a $2,000 fine without specifically mentioning urine or excrement. Signs showing jugs with lines through them would work.
“We’re too easy in Canada,” says Cathcart. “Do this in the U.S. and you’re be in big trouble. State Troopers will make you clean up the whole ditch.”
Mayor Ernie Daykin thinks fines are a good idea.
“We’ll put up a couple of no-littering signs. We’ve got a good relationship with MoT. We can work out the problem with them. In the meantime, we need to do the right thing in the district. We’ll get bear-proof garbage cans down there. We can do something right away.”
Urine filled jugs aren’t the only garbage at the truck pull out, which parallels Spencer Creek, a salmon producer. There’s mattresses and bags of garbage, too.
“Spencer Creek is ours,” said Daykin. “Our guys have gone through garbage bags before. Sometimes you can track down the name and address of its owner. That’s something we can do.”
The many folks who support the district’s new Environmental Management Strategy will like the mayor’s prompt response. Metro Vancouver should, too.
Last week, Paul Henderson, of Solid Waste Services, informed a council workshop of Metro’s aim to redirect 80 per cent of all commercial waste from landfills by 2025. Success will depend on an all-inclusive education campaign that reaches truck drivers everywhere.
It’s late in coming because levels of government pass the buck to avoid action.
Jugs containing pee don’t belong in ditches.
The mayor’s quick response means Maple Ridge could be the first to see them go.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.