“We’ve wounded this mountain. We have to close her wounds … for the wealth she’s given us,” – Howard, Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
In the 1948 movie, prospector Walter Huston tells Humphrey Bogart we should all help Mother Nature heal her wounds. They fill holes they dug looking for gold.
On March 3, Pitt Meadows initiated a similar process for “unslightly materials” on farmland along Katzie Slough at the end of McTavish Road. Council instructed staff to report on the extent of the litter, and the jurisdiction of local bylaws, and provincial ministries in getting it removed.
The city’s action followed pictures I showed Mayor John Becker on Feb. 27 after Scott Magri, of the Katzie Slough Restoration Project, and I viewed the site by canoe.
Access to this historic waterway is blocked by private industry and berry fields. Magri and I found a put-in-point off Harris Road.
The slough’s wounds include trees uprooted to the waterline despite a 2013 warning by Scott Resources Services, to “restore native vegetation” needed to counteract oxygen-depleting weeds.
Still, ducks break into flight at our approach; we pass a cottonwood tree dropped by a beaver. Beyond a tunnel under the Lougheed Highway, an outraged heron, a curious otter, life in this neglected ecosystem. Then, suddenly, the industrial and household trash – mattresses, tires, car bodies and parts, hog fuel, cement blocks. Embedded in the stream bank, plastic containers with unknown liquids – metals, oil-colored slicks, and bags of household trash.
Dave Steele, a landowner, told me that he’s struggled unsuccessfully with the public dumping garbage for 25-30 years.
“We’ve had mattresses, bags of diapers, guys dumping car parts there, and loads of dirt. We cleaned it all up five or six years ago, but some guys are too cheap to pay $10 to drop stuff off the dump or landscaping place.”
But, added Steele, “We’ve got a lot of that stuff cleaned up. There’s a little metal waiting for the scrap man, and a few tires, that’s all.”
Steel thinks his new $5,000 security system will end the dumping.
“We’ve installed a gate that’s going to be locked, and a 24-hour camera that reads licence numbers. We’ll take action against dumpers.”
Steele said he’s also reduced the hog fuel. The Agricultural Land Commission wants most of it removed. It’s asked the city to monitor the amount, and will take action if it doesn’t get compliance.
Steele said he uses some hog fuel – which can leach into the water, “where trees are planted.” But, “we’ve pulled it back 30 metres from the edge of the slough, and hauled out 50 to 60 loads.”
The city report on April 8 listed bylaws allowing fines from $100 $2,000 per day “for timely non-compliance” that prohibit “accumulated motor vehicle parts, filth, discarded materials and rubbish, building materials, and heavy construction materials.”
Operations manager Kate Zanon said, “Pitt Meadows has not imposed penalties when the property owner has been compliant. We’re happy with the progress to date.”
The clean-up in this case suggests cities can lead in the protection of the local environment, if supported by key provincial agencies that share jurisdiction.
It’s not clear whether that’s happened fully with the Ministry of Environment.
Zanon said MoE was contacted because the property line is in the waterway and, therefore, subject to provincial regulations and enforcement practices.
“There’s been multiple emails to the MoE,” she told me. But, “staff have yet to receive notice of any action they will take.”
I’ve asked MoE repeatedly to comment on the communication with Pitt Meadows, but haven’t received a response either.
On the plus side, the site looks healthier.
“It’s a lot nicer,” said Steele.
Mother Nature will try to heal.
For her gifts, she deserves help from all of us.