A Saturday public meeting held by the Concerned Citizens of Brant at the Paris Fairgrounds made one thing abundantly clear: a gravel pit just to the north of Paris proposed by Dufferin Aggregates won’t be excavated without a fight.
About 400 county residents gathered to hear Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians lend her support to those who oppose the proposed 600-acre operation, which the Concerned Citizens of Brant (also known as the CCOB) says could threaten the town’s water supply.
Barlow told those in attendance that clean water is a human right and noted that communities must work together to ensure their water supply remains safe. Her words seemed to inspire those present in the overflowing hall.
“We’re fighting here in Canada and around the world for the same thing you’re fighting for in Brant – the right to say ‘no’ to what’s wrong for your community and to say ‘yes’ to what’s right,” Barlow said. “You have the power in your hands and if you take that power this aggregate pit will never be built.”
More and more Paris residents – and many others from outside the county community – want proof that the proposed gravel pit, to be located on Watts Pond Road, is not a threat to Paris’ water supply. They deserve to see the proof.
Of great concern is the fact that Dufferin’s license to extract gravel from the site was granted by the province 39 years ago. As was noted at Saturday’s public meeting, science has changed a lot in the past 39 years. Back then, people were allowed to smoke in hospitals, an illustration of how much thinking has changed. Concern over the decades-old permit seems even more valid when one considers the fact that the proposed gravel pit will be located on top of aquifers that feed Paris’ nearby Gilbert and Telfer well fields, which provide water to the town of about 12,000 people. And did we mention the pit will be located in a wellhead protection area?
For its part, Dufferin has maintained throughout the growing pit controversy that its site plan meets all current environmental legislation and poses no threat to nearby wells or watercourses.
In its latest move, the CCOB appealed to Ontario’s environmental commissioner, Gord Miller, to review the Dufferin license. The CCOB believes the 39-year-old license would not be granted based on current environmental standards and wants the license revoked and for Dufferin to reapply.
Having the license revoked and for Dufferin to reapply seems like a more than reasonable position to us. If the pit is not a threat, let the planned operation go through the same approval process any other pit approved in Ontario today would go through. With so much concern and so much at stake in Paris, it only seems to make sense.
County of Brant Mayor Ron Eddy, also a speaker at Saturday’s public meeting, said he fears contamination of Paris’ water supply, as well as the loss of farmland, should the aggregate pit be allowed to proceed. Brant’s longtime mayor called for “urgent changes” to legislation to protect source water. We stand behind Eddy in pursuing those changes.
Looking at this Paris pit controversy, we couldn’t agree more that change is needed. As Barlow said, members of a community should have the right to decide what is right for their community, especially when it comes to a crucial resource like water. It’s time for the provincial government to put the ability to make such important decisions into local hands. And, if Saturday’s meeting is any indication, it seems more and more Paris residents are beginning to feel the same way.