The regional district’s new barriers intended to keep people from falling into garbage bins at transfer stations — as much as two metres tall — are a towering tribute to lack of common sense, says a former small town mayor.
Chris O’Connor, the former veteran mayor of Lytton, is taking his fight to the board of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, where he once served.
Barriers were placed at regional district transfer stations in the wake of an incident at the Mission Flats landfill in 2007, where homeowner Rod Lovely fell into a bin, suffering serious injuries including loss of one leg.
Lovely successfully sued the City of Kamloops for $1 million.
“Garbage is heavy and it’s tough for me to hoist it over,” said O’Connor. “When it’s full of wet grass, I almost had a hernia.”
O’Connor, who lives in Lytton, said some seniors are having a particularly difficult time and could be hurt trying to surmount the barriers set up for their protection.
He calls the barriers “judge-made law.
“Throwing garbage in a bin — there’s a risk,” he said. “In 99.9 per cent of the time people go about their life and don’t fall in. The .1 per cent do. Are we making laws around them?”
Regional district officials make no apology for the barriers. In fact, the gates at Lytton are lower than the new two-metre standard being brought in across the regional district.
They are designed so bags or other material can be pushed through, or over.
Environmental services director Peter Hughes said the new, higher railings are intended to provide a barrier for throwing garbage from the back of a tall pickup.
“Municipal insurance association is driving this,” he acknowledged. “It’s a recommendation following the B.C. Building Code.”
A letter written by O’Connor will appear on the agenda of the next TNRD board meeting. Hughes will tell directors why the tall barriers should stay.
“It’s a balance. We have to find a balance between concerns, protecting the public and limiting liability.”
Don May, the TNRD’s manager of environmental services, said a woman fell into a bin in McLure about a year before the barriers went up at that transfer station.
The regional district is in the midst of closing landfills at Chase, Barriere and Clearwater. They will be replaced by eco-depots — upgraded, indoor transfer stations that will also take recyclables.
Hughes said they will be designed with tipping bases, so residents will simply put their material on the floor. It will collect until an operator tips it into a bin.
O’Connor said he’s not opposed to making things safer, but believes the regional district has gone too far. He also admits to opposing mandatory seatbelts in cars and helmets for motorcyclists, arguing unprotected drivers and riders should be able to pay a higher fee for insurance in return for freedom to choose.
“Government’s role is to protect other people from me, not to protect me from myself — that’s my perspective.”