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Chilliwack penalized $11,000 for removing bear fence and exposing landfill

Chilliwack was found to have removed an electric bear fence, but says reported bear sightings at the landfill were a result of 'miscommunication or misunderstanding.'
A black bear chewing on a paper towel f
The penalty revolved around failures to maintain an electric bear fence and properly cover municipal waste at the Bailey Sanitary Landfill.

The City of Chilliwack has been handed an $11,000 penalty for failing to maintain an electric bear fence and properly cover municipal waste at a local landfill. 

The case revolves around the Bailey Sanitary Landfill, a facility that receives between 50,000 and 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste from across the Fraser Valley Regional District, including Chilliwack, Kent and Harrison Hot Springs. 

In November 2023, an inspection carried out by staff with the B.C. government found Chilliwack had left parts of the landfill exposed, according to recent decision handed down by director of the Environment Management Act Stephanie Little.

That summer, another visit from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy found the city had removed the landfill’s electrified bear fence. 

“This has the potential to allow wildlife to come into contact with the solid waste or become a nuisance and threat to humans in the surrounding area,” wrote Little in her decision. 

In a submission, the city said no bears were observed directly on site by workers or residents that year, and that reported sightings were a result of “miscommunication or misunderstanding.”

A spokesperson for the City of Chilliwack said the bear fence was “de-energized” because of a construction project. 

“The city carries out regular inspections of the site and has reviewed fence management procedures to ensure future incidents will not occur,” director of communications and legislative services Jamie Leggatt said in an email.

Little agreed the contraventions were moderate in nature. She upped the $10,000 base penalty by a combined $4,000 because the contravention was both deliberate and repeated or continuous in nature. Little later reduced the penalty by $3,000 for the city’s efforts to correct the breaches. 

The City of Chilliwack has 30 days to appeal the decision. 

This is the second time this year penalties have been handed to landfill operators for failing to manage their garbage and protect wildlife. 

In February, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure received a $21,500 administrative penalty for failing to reign in garbage and maintain electric fencing around a landfill it operates outside the northern community of Dease Lake.

In that case, a series of violations that led staff with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service to kill a bear that had accessed the landfill looking for food.