Illegally dumped waste on the Fraser isn't just ugly to look at, it also contributes to the spread of invasive species, increases the risk of fire, and presents a potentially serious health hazard for both people and wildlife. The members of the Fraser Valley Illegal Dumping Alliance are proud to support community efforts to report and remove illegally dumped waste and to keep our green spaces safe and clean for the enjoyment of all. That's why it's important to us that our volunteers have the tools and the know-how to keep from disturbing sensitive habitat and avoid being exposed to hazardous waste.
Here are some tips to help you minimize your footprint and maximize your safety while you help to clean up your local waterways and wilderness areas.
Before you start your cleanup ensure that you have the right equipment. Gloves, reflective vests, garbage pickers, buckets or garbage bags, sturdy shoes, proper clothing to stay warm and dry, snacks and water might be necessary to ensure a successful cleanup. Know the area and have a plan! It’s best to be over-prepared and safe than caught in a sticky situation.
How to Identify Hazardous Waste
WHMIS Symbols on dumped containers are an easy way to tell if the waste you've encountered could pose a threat to your health and safety. WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) is a universally recognized system for identifying hazardous materials in laboratories and workplaces; and its symbols can be found on the labels of most common hazardous household items, such as cleaners, pesticides, and paints.
Dangerous Illegal Lab Waste
Waste from illegal laboratory operations is extremely dangerous. Illegal dump sites containing a number of the following items should be approached with caution: acetone, toluene, paint thinner, camp fuel, starting fluid, denatured alcohol, muriatic acid, isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine tinctures, drain cleaners, and other suspicious waste containers such as plastic buckets, glass cookware, mason jars, bottles and tubing.
If you encounter hazardous waste that you suspect to be an illegal lab dump DO NOT TOUCH IT. Keep everyone 100 meters away and report the dump site to the local fire department (Chilliwack Fire Dept can be reached at 604-792-8713).
If anyone is exposed to hazardous chemicals, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Why It's Important To Use Trails
Many of the hiking and cycling paths through our parks and wilderness areas have been carefully planned to avoid causing harm to sensitive wildlife or fragile habitat. Disturbing leaf-litter and soil in certain places can contribute to erosion, while inadvertently destroying vegetation can disrupt natural processes or a source of food for wild species. Staying on the trail and resisting the urge to take shortcuts is an easy and effective way of keeping your footprint to a minimum. It also helps to avoid encounters with potentially dangerous wildlife. Get Bear Aware!
Steer Clear of Streams and Spawning Habitat
While it may seem tempting to take a shortcut up a shallow stream or across a convenient gravel bar, depending on the location and time of year, you could be destroying fragile wild salmon nests, called redds.
Salmon typically spawn in shallow creeks and streams throughout the Fraser watershed from about mid-July to September. During these times of year it's extremely important to watch out for salmon redds whenever you might be entering or crossing a waterway. Redds are not always easy to spot: a female salmon makes the redd, using her tail to push gravel downstream and forming a depression in the riverbed into which she deposits her eggs. Once the male fertilizes the eggs, the female then moves upstream and pushes more gravel down to cover them, leaving behind an area of "clean" gravel that indicates the location of the redd.
In addition to protecting salmon habitat, the Fraser River's threatened population of white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) rely on loose gravel beds for critical spawning and rearing habitat. Repeatedly driving vehicles across gravel beds can cause the gravel to become compact, closing the spaces between the stones that the sturgeon larvae need to shelter in as their bodies harden and begin to grow into giants.
Removing Garbage, Not Plants
Riparian vegetation helps to stabilize the banks of rivers and streams, their roots holding the soil together and slowing erosion. Wild plants also feed the soil, as well as the wild species who rely on their leaves, seeds, nuts, and berries as a source of food. When cleaning up garbage, it's important not to remove plants, even if they appear to be overgrown, unsightly, or possibly invasive.
If you do suspect a plant you've encountered on a clean-up is invasive, rather than removing it, report it! Contact the Invasive Species Council of BC at 1-888-933-3722 or use BC's Report-A-Weed smartphone app.
Reduce and Re-Use
Probably the most effective thing that we all, as individuals, can do to keep garbage out of our waterways and green spaces is to take simple steps to reduce the amount of waste that we generate. Remember to bring a re-usable drink cup and/or water bottle to the next clean-up you attend to help eliminate the need for throw-away coffee cups and plastic water bottles. If disposable cutlery or plates are a necessity, try to use biodegradable options, such as wood or recycled paper products, wherever possible.
Finally, while we urge you to explore and enjoy all the wonderful wild places that BC has to offer, we ask that you please remember to leave those places as clean, if not cleaner, than when you found them.
Remember to always pack out what you pack in!