Cleanup efforts have been going on over the winter at an old informal dumping ground north of Wilmer.
In the latest phase of an ongoing project — from December through to early March — crews from King Hoe Excavating Ltd. cleared out decades worth of trash from a slough north of Wilmer just inside the boundaries of the federally managed Columbia National Wildlife Area (which encompasses parts of the Wilmer Wetlands).
The Valley Echo contacted King Hoe for comment, but was deferred onto the federal Public Work and Government Services department, which then in turned directed The Echo to Environment Canada, which manages the wildlife area.
“Historically over the course of several decades, the area was used as an unauthorized dumpsite leading to an accumulation of waste on the southern portion of the property,” said Environment Canada spokesperson Danny Kingberry. “Environmental investigations conducted by Environment Canada at Wilmer marsh revealed metal and hydrocarbon impacted soil and sediment. The Wilmer marsh cleanup was conducted in order to remove the debris and impacted soils and sediments.
“Once the removal of the debris and impacted soils is completed, the site will be restored to a condition that will be both aesthetically pleasing to people and ecologically healthy for the wildlife that relies on the property as a habitat.”
Mr. Kingsberry said that after assessing the site, Environment Canada initiated a full scale clean-up and restoration project in 2011. Prior to this, local volunteers had conducted a small scale clean-up of the site.
“Through the course of the project, domestic waste, building debris, scrap metal, vehicles, tires, and other automotive parts were removed from the site and disposed,” he said.
Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F director Gerry Wilkie said most of the trash being pulled out was originally thrown away there many years ago, rather than recently.
“In the old days people just went and dumped stuff over the cliff,” he said, adding that efforts to clean the area had previously been undertaken by the local environmental group Wildsight years ago.
RDEK solid waste manager Jim Penson confirmed that some of the waste — specifically cleanfill (uncontaminated inert solid material) and some contaminated soil — was being sent to the landfill in Windermere.
Mr. Kingsberry confirmed that the rest of the waste is being trucked to Alberta.
“The successful contractor hired for the Wilmer Marsh Clean Up project identified that the best option was to use three landfill facilities — two permitted landfill facilities in Alberta and the local Windermere landfill,” he said.
The field work for this phase of the project is wrapped up for the year, but next year will see another phase.
“Additional waste and soil removal is planned for 2016 and following this, three years of environmental monitoring is planned to ensure site conditions have been adequately restored,” said Mr. Kingsberry.
The King Hoe crews were working just off Westside Road.