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Dirty dump deals hit Metro Vancouver

Ian Paton, Delta councillor, is concerned about farmland.

Ian Paton, Delta councillor, is concerned about farmland. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

Increasing reports of construction debris being secretly dumped on local farmland — for a cut-rate fee paid to land owners — has agriculture protection advocates calling for measures to stop what they call the destruction of fertile soil.

Richmond potato farmer Bill Zylmans is among a group recommending requirements for all developers to report where they intend to dump earth dug up at construction sites prior to projects being approved.

He also wants municipalities to step up fines and enforcement for those who illegally dump the construction waste onto agricultural lands.

The problem is chiefly caused by farmland owners — not actual farmers — who are profiting from “tipping fees” ranging between $100 and $200 per load, which is below what it would cost to dump at a legal landfill facility, Zylmans said.

“At the end of the day, money cannot fix the land. You’ve basically destroyed it. I’ve yet to see a case where we’ve been able to get it back and remove it all.”

Protecting agricultural lands is technically a provincial jurisdiction, according to Richmond Coun. Harold Steves — vice-chairman of the Metro Vancouver committee overseeing farms — but the province only has two employees enforcing those rules.

“It’s not all farming going on, on these sites. (Some) spend a million bucks to buy a property and put a fill on it, make a million bucks, and resell the property,” Steves said.

Many cities already have bylaw enforcement — which allows the courts to levy up to $10,000 on offenders — but that has yet to stop the dumping.

Richmond, for example, is now considering hiring as many as two staff whose sole duties would be enforcing the farming bylaws. Delta, meanwhile, is now trying to up its administrative fines to a maximum of $1,000 per offence.

“We fined a guy … six months ago in excess of $24,000,” Delta Coun. Ian Paton said.

“At the construction sites in Vancouver, where they’re digging out to put in a parkade or something like that, nobody knows what’s in there. It could be rock, concrete, debris, angle iron, concrete, all kinds of crap.”


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