Just outside Fort Liard sits a gravel pit used to store vehicles set for recycling down south. But the pandemic border closure means the old cars and trucks are going nowhere.
Laurie Nadia, the Department of Lands’ regional superintendent, said the territorial government noticed after devolution that the quarry pit “was being used as a dumping ground for derelict vehicles.”
She said: “We put a plan together to have that cleaned up, because no one has a quarry permit there, no one has a lease on that land or anything. So it is up to the GNWT to manage it.”
The NWT government, Hamlet of Fort Liard, and Acho Dene Koe First Nation jointly agreed to move all scrap vehicles to the pit – which sits on commissioner’s land – in an effort to send them south for recycling, Nadia said.
“Last summer we worked with the community and we collected vehicles,” she said. “And we also worked with Nahanni Butte and collected vehicles from their community. We did have a plan in place to have a crusher go in, in March, but then the border was closed.”
Nadia said those plans are still in place and a contractor will retrieve the derelict vehicles once restrictions at the border are eased.
However, it’s not clear when that might be. The territory currently has no firm timeline for the resumption of normal travel to and from the south.
“It’s definitely not cancelled at all,” Nadia said. “We’re working with a company out of Fort Nelson that’s still interested in coming up and collecting all those vehicles, once we’re able to bring them in.”
Meanwhile, residents have complained on Facebook that the pit is also being used as a more general dumping ground.
Fort Liard’s mayor, Hillary Deneron, responded to some of those comments by stating she would work to stop the dumping and sharing her disappointment.
“As far as I know, Archie’s Towing was taking scrap vehicles south,” she said. “But with the BC closure they haven’t been able to continue and sadly, lazy, careless people are using it as a dump by the looks of it.”
Deneron added she would ask the Department of Lands to lock the gate at the pit. Nadia confirmed that work would take place on Thursday.
No further dumping until border reopens
Nadia said the department won’t accept any dumping at the pit until the border reopens.
“Once the border opens and we are able to resume our project, we may allow for more vehicles on a one-time basis since the crusher would be coming up anyway,” she said.
“But at this time, that pit is closed for all dumping and storing of materials.”
Garbage at the Fort Liard gravel pit. Photo: Michellea Browning
In the longer term, Nadia thinks the community’s dump could accept derelict vehicles and provide a more appropriate storage location before they are recycled.
There is no fine system in place for dumping on commissioner’s land, Nadia said, but the department works to educate people about the consequences of illegal dumping.
“We would talk to [offenders] about why we don’t want them to dump there,” she said. “We would ask them not to dump there and to take their things to the dump.
“If needed, we could issue verbal and written warnings, but we don’t really have a fine system for something as minor as dumping a bit of garbage.”
Not only is illegal dumping unsightly, it can create wildfire and other environmental hazards. Yard waste and grass clippings are among some of the garbage left at the pit. Those types of refuse can dry out to become fire hazards.
Nadia wants to see that yard waste go to the local landfill.
“We would prefer that they didn’t [illegally dump yard waste],” she said. “Fort Liard does have a nuisance grounds and [residents] should arrange that with the municipality.”
Hazardous materials like paints, battery acids, or oils can seep into groundwater and soil over time, creating hazards to wildlife and the environment. Clean-up costs can be high and the work difficult, involving multiple agencies with responsibilities for various areas – especially when commissioner’s land is involved.
Nadia said the department is trying to get the vehicles cleared before they become an environmental issue.
“Our main concern was getting the vehicles out,” she said.
“We want to have that removed before the hoses and things wear away and it becomes a waste site there with all the oil and fuels.”