The Concerned Citizens of Brant are ramping up their campaign to have a 38-year-old aggregate extraction licence re-opened by the Ministry of Natural Resources in relation to a planned gravel pit on Watts Pond Road near Paris.
During a presentation to County of Brant councillors on Tuesday, Ron Norris, spokesperson for CCOB, said the group feels that Dufferin Aggregates intends to push ahead with the more than 600-acre operation, despite resistance and concern about drinking water sources being expressed by residents in the area.
“There are many of us who feel that these pits are being forced on us with little or no input,” Norris said. “Our own members who sit on the (company’s) community advisory committee realize and will openly tell you that this group is little more than a forum to vent and feel good about something that is a foregone conclusion.
“We are a group of individuals who are asking questions. We are even more committed to getting this licence revoked than we ever have been before.”
The group recently sent letters to Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle and the Lake Erie Source Water Protection Committee outlining its concerns and asking questions related to potential drinking water contamination.
The MNR recently said the company’s licence – issued in 1974 – would not be reviewed by the ministry, but that the company must abide by current regulations in relation to gravel extraction.
Coun. Steve Schmitt said the situation surrounding the pit is unclear.
“The thing that bothers me is we have two different government bodies telling us two different things,” Schmitt said. “The source water protection committee is saying ‘we need to protect our drinking water,’ while the province is saying ‘gravel extraction is a priority.’
“This is in our wellhead protection area and the company has not proved to us that their digging will not affect our water. The CCOB is saying ‘prove to us that it won’t be contaminated’ and I don’t think the company is doing that.”
On Wednesday, a Dufferin Aggregates spokesperson said the proposed gravel pit will operate at today’s standard and abide by all current legislation, including the Aggregate Resources Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act.
“An expert hydrogeologist has determined how to operate the Paris pit without any impact to source water, groundwater and domestic wells,” said Kevin Mitchell, land development and geology manager with Dufferin Aggregates. “All our operations are set up to ensure that there is no impact on groundwater quality and quantity as well as domestic wells.
“We are committed to continuing to share information and work in collaboration with government agencies and the community to address all concerns…Where we can change our plans to minimize impact, we do. We are confident that any outstanding technical issues are resolvable.”
Norris said the group has taken action by engaging hydrogeologist Tony Lotimer and the Canadian Environmental Law Association in relation to its concerns.
County of Brant Mayor Ron Eddy said he does not understand the ministry’s unwillingness to review the company’s licence.
“The minister of natural resources is anticipating amendments to the Aggregates Act,” Eddy said. “What I can’t understand is that some of the things (the CCOB) are requesting will be part of those (changes) and he wants to sit until they are changed.
“Why can’t he bring those forward? His answer, of course, is that it is legislation that is currently in force and can not be changed until the amendments are brought forward and passed by the legislature.”
Norris said council should pass a motion demanding that the MOE provide scientific proof that drinking water sources will not be affected by the proposed operation.
“You may say you have no authority, but you have a voice and it is time to stand up and be counted,” Norris said.