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What Is Illegal Dumping?

Illegal dumping is defined as the disposal/abandonment of materials in an unauthorized area, Illegal dumpsites can vary in size and contain a combination of waste materials.

Examples of materials typically found: construction and demolition debris (wood, shingles), furniture, appliances, vehicle tires, hazardous waste (oil, car batteries, paint), household waste (black bags) and recyclables.

What are the negative impacts associated with illegal dumpsites and litter?

Many birds and small animals die after ingesting or becoming entangled in debris.

Fish and other aquatic species are often killed when decomposing litter and food wastes in streams deplete oxygen supplies in water.

Debris in streams can smother spawning grounds and aquatic vegetation.

Toxic run off from improper disposal of toxic substances such as household cleaners and motor oil can contaminate lakes, streams, and our drinking water supplies.

Runoff from litter, polluted water, gasoline and consumer waste can infiltrate our soil. The soil then absorbs the toxins the litter creates and affects plants and crops.

Brings property value down.

has economic effects when tourists visit our island and are exposed to these areas.

Items such as broken glass and syringes can be a health hazard.


Breeding grounds for bacteria.


Illegal dumpsites can impact aquatic environments without being directly dumped into a waterway. Contaminants have the ability to travel vast distances through soil and groundwater transportation.

What Can You do?

Be part of the solution not the problem, Don’t illegally dump or litter, think before you act.

Put pressure on your local government to take a harder stance on illegal dumpsites, voice your concerns.

Spread awareness, tell your friends, family! Get the word out, illegal dumping has consequences.

Coordinate community cleanups, change starts with you!

Report Illegal dumping activity.


Waste from homes or industry which have been illegally dumped causes a significant amount of pollution. Often this happens near a water source where people may believe the pollution and evidence will be washed away, which has harmful consequences for the water source. As previously stated illegally dumped materials in streams can have devastating adverse affects on aquatic life. Decomposing waste materials deplete the dissolved oxygen levels in these streams other hazardous waste in streams can often kill many aquatic organisms as they are sensitive to changes in their environments.

Why is dissolved oxygen levels so important within an aquatic ecosystem?

Just as we need air to breath, aquatic organisms need dissolved oxygen to respire. Dissolved oxygen is necessary for the survival of fish, invertebrates, bacteria and underwater plants.

Impacts on Aquatic Habitat

Habitat destruction or harm is caused when submerged debris (for example, a piece of plastic sheeting) covers sea-grass beds, or smothers bottom-dwelling species and blocking spawning beds.

Impacts on Water Quality

Debris can also affect the water quality by adding chemicals to the water. Construction waste illegally dumped in a stream can include buckets that once held paints, solvents, and other chemicals that can enter the water. Cigarette butts and some other littered items contain toxic chemicals that leach into the water.


If you suspect or witness illegal dumping activity within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality please phone the CBRM solid waste hotline at (902)-567-1337. If you live outside of the CBRM please contact your local police department.

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