ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - In St. John's, N.L., a seaside city famous for breath-taking views and hiking trails, city council has declared war on polluters who illegally dump everything from cars to old toilets.
"That war is now advancing — and at a good pace," Coun. Tom Hann said Tuesday as the city and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary announced charges against five male suspects.
They are aged from 17 to a 37-year-old postal worker from Conception Bay South, N.L., who is accused of using a Canada Post vehicle to dump advertising mail.
They have been charged under the province's Environmental Protection Act and face fines of up to $10,000 or three months in jail. The postal worker has also been charged under the Criminal Code with fraudulently redirecting mail.
"Canada Post does not condone this kind of behaviour and it is unacceptable," Canada Post spokesman John Caines said in an emailed response to an interview request.
"The matter is being dealt with internally."
Caines said there would be no further comment, including on whether the worker has been suspended, while the investigation continues.
Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said the city's zero-tolerance crackdown on illegal dumping will continue. He said an undisclosed number of hidden cameras in recent months have been used to identify about 40 illegal dump sites. They include two near Windsor Lake, one of the city's major drinking water sources.
On display as the mayor spoke were grainy, black-and-white stills from video taken along a wooded road of two men as they dumped what appeared to be building materials from a pickup. Colour photos showed the remains of a couch, a fridge and bags of trash in other forest clearings.
"If we get anybody on candid camera — and we've gotten them — then we're going to prosecute," O'Keefe said.
"The ultimate answer has to be a change in attitude so that people realize this can't continue. Littering can't continue. Indiscriminate dumping can't continue."
St. John's is hardly alone in its fight against the trashing of its woodlands.
"We live in this community as well and we hike those trails," said Supt. Jim Carroll of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. "We see the damage that this can do to our environment, so we will support any initiative by any municipality within our jurisdiction with an attempt to bring these individuals to justice."
O'Keefe said it's a "colossal" problem that's especially frustrating because the city has spent millions of dollars in recent years upgrading its regional landfill. The city offers to collect bulk household waste free of charge.
Commercial haulers must pay $25 for an annual permit and $67.60 per tonne for most waste at the city's Robin Hood Bay Waste Management Facility.
O'Keefe, who walks local trails, said he's mystified at the lengths people will go to trash cars and other junk that could more easily go to the proper site.
"You actually see an old wreck and you ask yourself: 'How in the name of God did they get that up here on top of that hill?' "
Hann said media attention about the city's use of hidden cameras has drawn queries from other communities across Canada grappling with similar problems.
"It's everywhere, and awareness is a big factor," he said.