Roadside mechanic upset by human waste stinking up highway

Travis Wied says feces and urine left behind by travellers has made it difficult to work at some locations around his community.

Travis Wied says feces and urine left by travellers have made it difficult to work

A roadside mechanic would like to see a bathroom added near this "Welcome to Valemount" sign because of the amount of human waste left at the stop. (Regional District of Fraser Fort George)

Roadside mechanics in Valemount, B.C., are tired of having to deal with human waste on the side of the highway as they try to do their job.

"It's just really disgusting," said Travis Wied, the owner of Travis Auto in the Robson Valley community.

"The last time I smelled anything that bad was when I was 13 years old and went to Tijuana."

Wied said the problem is especially pronounced at a pullover near the "Welcome to Valemount" sign greeting visitors traveling along Highway 5 from Kamloops.

This pullover on the way into Valemount needs a bathroom says mechanic Travis Wied, who is tired of encountering human waste left on the side of the road. (Google Maps)

With no bathrooms at the stop, Wied says truckers and tourists frequently relieve themselves in the open air before moving on.

 "They can't even go walk to the bush," he said. "You bury it ... you don't leave it."

Listen to the full interview with Wied:

Roadside mechanics in Valemount, B.C., are tired of having to deal with human waste on the side of the highway as they try to do their job. Carolina de Ryk speaks with Travis Wied of Travis Auto. 8:55

Wied said the problem became worse this summer when Valemount became a detour point after other highways in the Interior were closed due to wildfires.

At one point, he said, his mechanics no longer wanted to attend certain locations because of the human waste.

"Everywhere you go it's like, what smells?" he said.

Truckers want more rest stops

Getting additional rest stops along B.C. highways is a priority for truckers and professional organizations representing them.

In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Transportation in 2016, the vast majority of truckers said the province does not have enough stops, with 82 per cent disagreeing with the statement "there were enough rest areas along my route" and 83 per cent disagreeing with the statement "I am happy with amenities provided in rest areas."

A 2016 survey of truckers in B.C. found most believe more rest areas are needed. (B.C. Ministry of Transporation)

According to a provincial rest stop map on the ministry website, truckers along Highway 5 have 117 kilometres to travel between rest areas that can accommodate their vehicles.

While that is within the maximum 150 kilometre interval advocated by the B.C. Trucking Association, the industry group says research in the U.S. and Australia indicates 80 kilometres between stops is optimal.

Health concerns

Wied worried the situation was leaving a bad impression on tourists who might pull over to admire the views

"They want to sit there and look at beautiful Valemount and its beautiful mountains, and it's a beautiful spot to stop, but it's not sanitary," he said. 

You don't want your kids running around in people's urine- Travis Wied

"You don't want your kids running around in people's urine." 

Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins said while she didn't know the details of what mechanics were dealing with in Valemount, generally speaking, the advice is to avoid direct interaction with human waste.

"Waste can contain infectious pathogens, but the risk would come from interacting directly with it," she said.  

"Washing your hands thoroughly would be the best way to prevent illness."

The distance between rest stops that can accommodate truckers along Highway 5 is 117 kilometres. The 'ideal' interval is 80 kilometres, according to the B.C. Trucking Association. (Google Maps)

A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson told the Rocky Mountain Goat newspaper there are currently no plans to install additional bathrooms at the site.

A WorkSafeBC representative said because highways are outside its jurisdiction, it would have no control over the situation, but it is advised workers and employers protect their health in whatever way possible.

 Valemount mayor Jeanette Townsend said while the problem had not been brought up to her directly, she would be looking into the issue with staff.

Wied said he cares less about jurisdiction than the end result.

"I really just want to see a bathroom put in, I don't care who does it," he said.

About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

@akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is a radio producer and digital journalist in northern British Columbia, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George.