By Michael Piasetzki
When the Blue River Community Spring Clean-up occurred on May 15, the end result for everyone involved was a good-news bad-news situation.
On the positive side, the event was a fine example of community support, as many families with young people sacrificed part of their weekend leisure time to chip in and help clean up the town and highway frontage. A BBQ and a good time was had by all afterward.
On the negative side though, those involved were dismayed and shocked at the amount of garbage found along two frontage roads including bags of old food, oil cans, and urine jugs. Those two roads include the west frontage road by the Petro Canada station and the east frontage road by the Husky station, which are both around 2km long.
“I am aware of this problem more than you may know,” said Dan Price, manager of Emil Anderson Maintenance, the company responsible for keeping the Blue River frontage roads clean and maintained. Its parent company is Emil Anderson Construction Inc. “It’s the truckers who are littering those frontage roads. They refuel at those gas stations, buy some food, then sit there and eat, maybe have a sleep or whatever, and throw their garbage out on the roads as they pull away. They also urinate in antifreeze jugs and defecate in goddamn plastic bags and throw them out along the frontage roads from their trucks, and away they go. It’s been an ongoing problem here for years.”
Price said the main reason he can’t keep up with cleaning up the litter is because he’s short-staffed. He only has two regular employees in his department, but they are off most of the summer. He simply cannot keep up with the rate of garbage being left by truckers daily.
“You can clean it up today and it will be just as bad tomorrow,” he said. “Last year I picked up garbage on those frontage roads by myself so many times I can’t even tell you. I have other duties to do as well as part of my job. I even had my wife help me. Our priorities are safety for the travelling public. That’s getting rid of any debris on the travel lanes and the shoulders. To get to the sides of the road off the shoulders is where the challenge lies. You can have a guy just cleaning up those sides and shoulders all day, all summer long.”
Steven Quinn, the director for Thompson-Nicola Regional District Area B said he’s aware of the situation but has no control over the people who travel through these frontage highways.
“The community tries its best to keep its community clean,” he said. “I think it’s only a small portion of travellers who are doing this. I’m not sure. I don’t monitor or police it. The open window is a wonderful garbage can for some people. It’s a shame that it’s happening.”
Blue River resident Lee Onslow, who was part of the community clean-up with her family, said she feels the first step to dealing with this situation is to simply raise awareness.
“I think it would be beneficial for everyone in this community to communicate better in this situation,” she said. “From Emil Anderson to the gas stations to possible trucker training. We have to come together on this. Or maybe it comes down to Blue River itself putting garbage receptacles for the truckers to use. But I’m thankful the townspeople haven’t given up on cleaning up. Otherwise, it would be a disgusting mess all the time. But one thing is for sure. The very first thing tourists see coming into the town is the frontage roads. The first impression will be that our town is dirty.”
For his part, Price suggested Blue River should perhaps initiate a program that has become popular in other communities across Canada.
“We need an Adopt-a-Highway program set up in Blue River,” he said. “We need some people in the Blue River community who will step up and say ‘I’ll take over a part of this frontage highway and keep it clean.’ That’s what’s happening in other parts of our country.”
He said it’s not just the truckers who are littering on these roads, either. He said some pipeliners have been spotted littering as well.
“One of my guys saw one of those guys sling six empty beer cans out of his car right on the frontage highway and drive away. That’s what we’re dealing with. We need help.”