By Craig Westcott/November 18, 2022
Holyrood Mayor Gary Goobie is hot on the scent of whoever dumped a pile of trash in the woods near a local pond.
Goobie shared the details during his Mayor’s Report at Tuesday’s public council meeting.
“I prefer not to, but feel it’s a matter of public interest and needs to be addressed,” said the mayor. “One day last week while walking my dog on a dirt road around a pond, I happened to notice a discarded chair in the woods. On my way back, I noticed our public works staff were emptying the town’s garbage container, so I mentioned it to them, and they said they would remove it. Low and behold, a short time later I received a text and a picture informing me what they also discovered hidden in the woods. Now just get this: four tires – including one on a rim, three chairs, four battery operated drills, a water cooler, a dehumidifier, a drill box and a vehicle battery. In total, they had collected a pickup load of discarded material.”
Goobie said the most disturbing thing was the danger posed by the battery.
“What would happen if the vehicle battery eventually broke open, which contains lead, acid and sulphuric acid, and were to eventually leach into the pond only a few feet away?” he asked. “What would happen if some children playing in the area were to accidentally break it open, not realizing the dangers of what’s inside and got this acid on their skin, or even in their eyes? Undoubtedly, this would result in very serious injuries. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but it’s reality.”
Goobie said he doesn’t know where the trash came from.
“It could be a non-resident,” he allowed. “But one thing is for certain; this problem is not just isolated to our community. I’ve heard stories of other jurisdictions and towns that have pockets which have become dumping grounds.”
It led him to wonder why it is happening.
“Is the high price of fuel discouraging people from travelling upwards of 100km to and from Robin Hood Bay, so now they head to the back roads?” he asked. “It’s a complicated situation with no easy answer. So, I would suggest we engage in some discussion with the Eastern Regional Waste Management Board, and on a broader level, with Municipalities Newfoundland & Labrador.”
Goobie said 99.9 per cent of people respect the environment and are compliant with the rules against dumping in the woods. It’s only a handful of culprits who have no regard for their environment or communities.
“I don’t know what the answer is on how we can reduce or eliminate this problem,” said the mayor. “All I do know is this kind of blatant behaviour is disgraceful, unacceptable and shameful; and it has to stop.”
Deputy Mayor Michelle Woodford seemed at a loss to explain the behaviour given the Town offers bulk garbage pickup a couple of times a year. “So, it’s not like the opportunities are not there for the individuals who are not able to go to Robin Hood Bay,” she said. “If you ride the track on any type of ATV you will see that throughout the woods, unfortunately.”
Goobie argued the regulations need to be changed to give municipalities more power to prosecute people who dump illegally. “We’ve had situations in the past where we saw bills, receipts, everything else (among garbage piles), but unfortunately we don’t have any teeth in the regulations, because if it goes to court you actually have to prove it,” he said. “And the only way to prove this is you actually have to see it physically or take a video of it.”
Goobie said during Holyrood’s most recent community cleanup he came across a full garbage bag dumped near a pond. “As inquisitive as I was, I tore open the garbage bag and I saw receipts, I saw a letter, I know the address, I know the phone number, and I thought to myself, ‘What will I do with this?’ But I knew that we don’t have the evidence. It was all there, but I knew there was nothing we could do. This is the reason why we have to bring this forth to Municipalities NL to see what we can do, if they can reach out to the Department of Justice, or Environment, or whatever, to see if towns can have more teeth in enforcing these kinds of things. Because enforceability is the challenge.”
Councillor Laura Crawley encouraged residents who see such behaviour to record it and report it. She suggested a Neighbourhood Watch group might be a help.
Public Safety Committee chairman, councillor Bruce King, noted there was an effort to establish a Neighbourhood Watch group some months ago, but it got zero response. Maybe in light of the recent chatter on social media about break-ins it would be a good time to try again, he said, offering to arrange meetings with the RCMP to help get it going for anyone who is interested. “Christmas is coming, a lot of people are hurting out there and people sometimes do desperate things,” he said.
King then raised another surprising issue that he said is spiking in Holyrood and other places.
“That’s the stealing of fuel,” he said. “I mean you’ve almost got to get somebody to co-sign the selling of your house to get a tank of diesel. But they’re not just siphoning the gas anymore, they’re drilling a hole in the bottom of your gas tank and getting it. So not only is it now that when you come out in the morning and turn your ignition the gas light is on, but you’ve also got to go and buy a new gas tank… People need to be aware of that and take precautions. You’re not going to stop everything, but you can deter some people.”