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Kitimat man demands action on highway garbage

Highway contractor sends cleanup crew, considers new partnership
A Kitimat resident is frustrated with garbage accumulation on the side of Hwy 37 and is working with the contractor on an innovative solution. (File photo)

Kitimat resident Bill Kearley is pressuring highways maintenance contractor Emil Anderson to do more to clean up garbage tossed out by motorists along Hwy37, including the road into Kitamaat Village.

He’s now threatening to do the job himself, using his own pickup and trailer and a labour force he’d pay $15 an hour, and then bill Emil Anderson for the costs.

“The contractor has to be held accountable, because it is in their contract that this litter must be cleaned up,” Kearley said.

On May 24, Kearley sent an email to the contractor, the highways ministry and local government officials outlining what he terms a long-standing neglect.

He proposed hiring local charities to clean up litter and criticized Emil Anderson for failing to fulfil its obligations.

Kearley also emphasized that taxpayers should not have to deal with the frustration caused by inadequate maintenance.

Kearley has already accepted that he might not be reimbursed.

“The money is secondary,” he said.

By May 27, Kearley observed that Emil Anderson had begun cleaning up along the highway and in a followup letter May 28, decided to step back on taking action.

“It was like night and day where the cleanup stopped. Like someone threw a switch,” he said.

Kearley said Emil Anderson has since contacted him with a view to a formal arrangement.

He said the contractor cannot hire a subcontractor as such but it can donate to charities who provide volunteers for a clean up.

“It gets to the point where the citizens are getting fed up… but I’m taking a different approach because I want to support small clubs and societies and pay the for their work,” Kearley said.

The problems stems from the general public treating the highway like a private garbage dump, Kearley added.

In addition to household garbage and common litter tossed from vehicles, he’s seen bed frames, shopping carts, tires—“everything else under the sun, and lots of it,” he said.

He added he appreciates the efforts of Kitimat RCMP and the District of Kitimat to crack down on illegal dumping and littering, but he believes those patrols extend from Kitimat only a couple of kilometres, when the problem persists the full distance to Terrace and back again.

Emil Anderson has provided service to the Skeena area since July of 2020, encompassing an extensive area that includes Terrace, Kitimat and the Nass Valley. Nola Lawrence, operations manager for the Skeena zone did not want to discuss details of Kearley’s assertions, but confirmed the company is awaiting his cost estimate for charity cleanups. She added the biggest contributor to the problem near Kitimat is unsecured loads to the garbage dump.

Kitimat’s mayor, Phil Germuth, speaking as a board member for the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine, said he wasn’t aware of any ongoing complaints to warrant the district’s involvement on the matter, but echoed Nolan’s frustration with dump hauls.

“I know it can be a problem with trucks losing their loads. I suspect that’s where the problem is coming from,” he said.

He was aware the contractor had been out cleaning garbage as of last week and, in light of Kearley’s emails, said he’ll keep a closer eye on the matter from now on.

Correction: an earlier version of this story identified Phil Germuth as the chair of the RDKS. He is the former chair, and current regular board member. The above story has been corrected.

About the Author: Quinn Bender

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