Nfld. & Labrador

'It's disgusting': Litterbugs infest land in Upper Lake Melville

People who live in the Upper Lake Melville region of Labrador say public shaming is needed to control litterbugs and those who dump illegal garbage.
Garbage on the road going to the landfill site just off of the North West River road. (Jenny Gear)

People who live in the Upper Lake Melville region of Labrador say public shaming is needed to control illegal dumping and litterbugs, but prosecution is also needed.

North West River resident Jenny Gear enjoys going to the dock in Happy Valley-Goose Bay each morning to look at wildlife before going to work.  

But what she's faced with is beyond frustrating. Everything from beer bottles and bread bags to coffee cups and straws and toilet paper litter the area. And the list goes on. 

"It's gross. It's disgusting. It's sad," Gear, who's also an amateur photographer, told CBC's Labrador Morning.    

Jenny Gear and others have organized cleanups of the area. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Gear and others have taken it upon themselves to pick up litter other people simply toss. Armed with garbage bags and rubber gloves, she fills a garbage bin the Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association has set up at the main dock. 

But all that litter and trash isn't only at the town's dock. Driving back and forth to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Gear sees trash strewn along the North West River road.   

Recently, she stopped to photograph a moose alongside the road. She estimated there was enough garbage on the ground between the two of them to fill a bag. 

"It just shows a lack of respect for the land. Some people just don't care. They continue to do it. It happens all the time," she said. 

"We share the land with the animals and other people and it's here for all of us to enjoy."  

The river is a habitat for birds like this Greater Yellowlegs, but the Pepsi can doesn't belong. (Jenny Gear)

Gear also couldn't believe what she saw visiting a spot overlooking the Goose River. Hundreds and hundreds of shell casings, beer boxes, and even a washer or dryer down the bank right into the river, she said. 

"It's absolutely heartbreaking to see it. It hurts me to see it". 

Gear said it must have been inconvenient to drive into the area to dump the garbage because it's easier to get to the landfill. 

Some of the garbage clearly didn't end up in the woods by accident. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Still, there are piles of garbage on the way to the dump and there's even new litter along the road crews just cleaned up.

"It's just pure ignorance and disrespectful. It angers me. I can't understand why people do it," Gear said.

On-line, people are outraged by all the trash around. 
"There's no need of it! Not that hard to take your trash home with you! My 6 year old grandson gets it!" said one post.

'We have to charge people'

Happy Valley-Goose Bay town councillor Tony Chubbs is also disgusted, saying people need to take pride in their community. 

He says the town probably spends $30,000 to $40,000 on cleaning up the town each year.  

"It's not tolerable in this day and age to be littering the way it goes on our town. It's disgusting. Tourists come here and it's the first thing they see when they land in Goose Bay."

Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association, Tony Chubbs, is frustrated with the continued hunt of the George River caribou herd. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Chubbs says it's demoralising, a sad reflection on some people in town who don't have respect for the land, the town, or other residents. 

He explains that a garbage bin at the middle dock in Happy Valley-Goose Bay had been even thrown into the water. The site which is littered with garbage is a disgrace, he said, and people just don't care. 

Not far away, an appliance and more garbage lies among the alders. 

"We have to charge people, convict them, put them in court, and fine them," Chubbs says.  

Chubbs said the town's new community constable should be in place by the end of June, a position which has been vacant since October, 2015.  

Maybe it takes public shaming. Take a picture of someone that's littering. Post it on Facebook.- Tony Chubbs

The community constable will be responsible for getting the town's surveillance cameras up and running again, as well as looking for people driving with uncovered loads and anyone littering and illegal dumping. 

Like many others, Chubbs is fed up. "Maybe it takes public shaming. Take a picture of someone that's littering. Post it on Facebook. Let's see if that works, " he said. 

"We continually try to educate the public, but obviously the education isn't sinking in. So it's prosecution or public shaming." 

Jenny Gear says this is what she wants to see on a walk through the woods near North West River, but there was a bag of garbage along the way. (Jenny Gear)

Meanwhile, Gear thinks leaders in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, North West River and Sheshatshiu should sit down and come up with a plan to combat littering and illegal dumping together. 

Fining people and public awareness campaigns are needed, she said, to drive the message home that it's simply wrong, but more putting out more garbage bins and dumpsters would help, too. 

"You know if one person stops to pick up garbage, it's going to make a difference, " she said. "I don't know what the answer is but there has to be a solution. It's so sad."

About the Author

John Gaudi

CBC reporter

John Gaudi reports from Happy Valley-Goose Bay for CBC's Labrador Morning.