By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March 15, 2014
In his mind, Marph Sague was perhaps giving final touches to an avant-garde art project.
But those who saw that art knew instantly what it really was: a festering, putrid fortress of garbage on Ring Creek road.
It was the hoarder’s dream home: Walls made of plastic which were festooned with bike parts from dozens of bicycles and motorbikes, roof panels, road signs and hundreds of flashy reflective vests.
Now the hoarder is gone, 228.4 metric tonnes of garbage has been removed, but the owner has to pay $35,000 in clean up fees.
And here is the stinky kicker: The homeowner whose home was defiled says the hoarder pulled the garbage from the Squamish landfill, where he was given free rein by the landfill staff.
The landfill attendants not only allowed him to scavenge all these years, they actively help him transport it to her property on Ring Creek road, the owner says.
The hoarding had continued for well over a decade, but the issue came to light only in last July when the property owner, Nadine Gwatkin, asked the district to reduce the tipping fees ($26,127) she was being charged.
The district refused her demand, saying they are already subsidizing her by not charging the mixed waste fees.
Gwatkin knew Marph as an artist who transformed discarded material into art. She shared the Ring Creek home with Sprague from 1993-99, but then left B.C., but allowed Marphe to live rent free.
Gwatkin, who now lives in Eugene, Oregon, said she knew Marph was keeping the property messy, but had no idea he would become an extreme hoarder.
“I had no idea his art work and collection of discards would spiral out of control.”
But she also says the district has to take some responsibility.
“Not only did the dump turn a blind eye to his activities, they participated in my property becoming a trash dump,” Gwatkin said.
In letters to the council and interview with the Reporter, Gwatkin’s neighbours say landfill staff had a role to play in this fiasco.
Peter Groves, a neighbour, said he believes the Squamish landfill staff might have even helped transport some of the garbage up to the Ring Creek Road.
“As soon as the district became aware of the scavenging issue, enforcement began, leading to the attendant change.” Christina Moore
Another neighbor Doug Bonde said for the last three years, he and other neighbors tried to warn the district, the building inspector, the landfill operator, and even the fire department about what was going on.
No action was taken, he said.
Finally, Bonde said SLRD Area D director Maurice Freitag took it upon himself to get the mess cleared up.
District spokesperson Christina Moore said scavenging has never been permitted at the landfill. She said the district was not made aware at the time that scavenging was an issue so it couldn’t be enforced.
“As soon as the district became aware of the scavenging issue, enforcement began, leading to the attendant change,” Moore said.
The landfill now is being managed by a new contractor, and security has been upgraded, including the installation of surveillance cameras on site.
Neighbour Doug Bonde, meanwhile, said the district should take some responsibility for this situation.
“There is a huge financial and social cost in turning a blind eye,” he said.