British Columbia officials have revealed that farms across the province are being used as illegal dumps by the construction industry.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham and the Agriculture Land Commission (ALC) – an independent agency that protects provincial farmland – both report that contractors are dumping poor-quality dirt and construction waste (known as “fill”) on farmland, damaging the fertile land.
CBC News reported that construction contractors pay landowners to dump fill on farmland to avoid paying higher fees at legal dumps.
“In most cases, it’s more financially feasible to farm fill than to farm vegetables. So it’s a huge problem,” Popham said, adding that the issue has gotten worse, fueled by BC’s flourishing construction industry.
“It gets worse every time we get into a successful building boom. There is not really a plan around where construction fill should go and so one of the easiest places to put it is farmland.”
The ALC said it is investigating 93 properties of protected farmland in Metro Vancouver where it is suspected that fill has been illegally dumped.
“We’re aware there are significantly more illegal fill sites than that,” ALC soil expert Katarina Glavas said. “I imagine it would be in the hundreds.”
CBC News called five licensed waste facilities in Metro Vancouver and found that a dump truck load of mixed construction waste and fill could cost between $1,100 and $1,400 to dispose of through legal means.
Glavas noted that some landowners on protected farmland will accept the same load for just $200.
It is forbidden to dump fill on land that is reserved for farming under provincial law. Unless approved by the ALC, construction companies must take the waste to a transfer station for disposal. Breaching these dumping rules could result in a $100,000 penalty.