UPDATE: See our edition next week for a follow-up story with TimberWest.
Youbou residents are engaged in another dust-up with TimberWest and the provincial government about, well, dust. And if industry and government don’t address the situation soon, some community members may institute a blockade on the highway to get their message across.
The issue of dirt carried through the community on logging trucks — filling the air as dust during dry weather and caking the roadway with mud during wet weather — has been a longstanding point of contention for many residents, some of whom say enough is enough.
Don Beldessi, a director with the Youbou Community Association, has lived in Youbou for more than 40 years and said he has been complaining to TimberWest and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) since 2000.
TimberWest owns the land beyond Youbou and contracts the trucks that remove and transport lumber from that area.
“There’s an increasing number of people talking roadblock. And I don’t want to see it go there because they’re all contract trucks… and we [would be] costing the contractors money,” said Beldessi.
“We don’t want to, but if that’s what we have to do to get their attention, that’s what we’ll do.”
Beldessi was speaking on behalf of the Youbou Community Association, with the support of association treasurer Ian Halowaty.
Beldessi said he feels like the community has been deceived by TimberWest.
“We’ve had the assurance that this is going to come to an end… There’s been at least four plans that they were supposed to follow to eliminate what’s happening and all the plans have failed.”
In December, TimberWest installed a truck wash station where its private industrial road meets the pavement leading into Youbou. The purpose of this station is to allow truck drivers to spray the dust and dirt from their rigs prior to entering the community.
Beldessi said within a matter of weeks it became clear the system was not working.
“We call it a wheel wash; it doesn’t clean the whole load. It only cleans about two or three, maybe four feet of the lower truck,” he said. “It’s a closed system, it clogs up. It doesn’t work most of the time. And when it does, it sprays muddy water on the trucks.”
In February, the Youbou Community Association sent a letter to Area I director Klaus Kuhn, with copies to TimberWest, MOTI and the Ministry of Environment, expressing frustration with the situation and voicing safety concerns related to air quality, pedestrian visibility and slippery roadside conditions due to mud deposits.
“A lot of times you can’t see the back end of the load you’re following or the people on the side of the road,” Beldessi said, referring to clouds of dust that trail behind trucks.
Kuhn echoed these concerns.
“We can’t put up with it,” he said.
“The people along Youbou Road but even further in, off Youbou Road… They get dust so badly. I’ve been some of the houses — the dust goes through the cracks in the windows. It’s everywhere. And it’s really unbearable. You cannot expect the population to live with this.”
Kuhn said he has inspected the truck wash station and believes it is inadequate. He said the recycled water the system uses to wash trucks looks more like ‘chocolate milk’, and some of the truck drivers he’s spoken to said the sand and dirt in the water end up essentially sand-blasting the paint of their rigs.
In an email to the Gazette, Kate Mukasa, public affairs officer with MOTI, confirmed that TimberWest has an industrial access permit to Youbou Road, the terms of which state TimberWest is responsible for removing any mud or dust deposited on the road by industrial traffic.
Mukasa noted TimberWest’s installation of the truck wash station and said the company also paved approximately 600 metres of roadway in an effort to eliminate some of the dirt being tracked into Youbou.
“We understand the community’s concerns and ministry staff are continuing to work with TimberWest to try to remedy this ongoing issue,” said Mukasa. “The ministry, through our maintenance contractor, has been doing additional sweeping to remove debris from the road. Additionally, the ministry has tendered a project to have the roads thoroughly cleaned and scraped this April, to ensure the accumulated debris is removed.”
Mukasa said MOTI, TimberWest, Youbou Community Association board members and CVRD representatives will meet soon to discuss the issue.