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NEWS: Council backs anti-quarry fight in Melancthon

NOW magazine in Toronto reports, “It may be two hours north of Toronto, but the fight against a 2,400 acre limestone quarry near Shelburne has become ground zero for a number of T.O. enviro and local food activists hoping to reproduce the successful urban-rural alliance that nixed Dump 41 in Tiny Township in 2010. The surging campaign against the massive pit that will be blasted into Ontario’s potato growing capital, Melancthon Township, now has the resources of the Council of Canadians onboard. And Friday (April 22), Earth Day, activists will take off from Queen’s Park for a five-day walk to the site, spearheaded in part by key Dump 41 organizer, Danny Beaton.”

“(Concerned residents are asking) if water would be safe to drink after it has been reinjected into new wells in the aquifer, following the blasting. Others note safety and noise concerns with the 7,200 trucks on local roads daily, blasting all day and loss of farmland. …The Council of Canadians is concerned about the threat to 100 million people downstream by disrupted water systems and loss of farmland. The limestone rests at the headwaters of five major rivers – the Pine, the Grand, the Nottawasaga, the Saugeen and the Beaver and farmers have relied on the land for generations. The picturesque countryside, abutting the Niagara escarpment and sharing the same topography, tells a deep, enchanting story. The porous land is riddled with deep fissures and caves that beckon tourists and locals alike. Will a farmers’ movement backed by urban environmentalists be able to preserve this terrain?”

You can take action by responding to the Council of Canadians action alert against the mega-quarry at http://canadians.org/action/2011/mega-quarry.html. It was posted on April 19 and within 24 hours there were more than 1300 responses. Yesterday, Council of Canadians Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara and Melancthon rancher Carl Cosack were at Queen’s Park to present those petitions to Premier Dalton McGuinty. They demand an extension to the comment period on the mega-quarry. Mark will also be at the start of the five-day walk today, which begins at 12 pm ET (about two hours from now).

Update: The Toronto Star reports this evening, “Farmers, ranchers and First Nations groups embarked on a 115-kilometre trek to Melancthon Township on Friday to show their opposition to a ‘mega quarry’ planned for the region. The group departed on foot from Queen’s Park, where roughly 200 people had gathered to discuss the project’s potentially negative impact on the region’s water, farming and quality of life.”

“’It’s going to be the second-largest quarry in North America — (61) metres below the water line,’ said Mark Calzavara from the Council of Canadians. ‘That’s deeper than Niagara Falls … the community is dead-set against it.’ The application for the project, put forward by The Highland Companies, says the limestone quarry planned for Dufferin County will use 600 million litres of groundwater every day, Calzavara said. ‘The effect on the water is our main concern,’ he said. ‘It’s also going to destroy some farmland. We need some time to examine it.'”

680News adds, “Mark Calzavara, who is the regional organizer with the Council of Canadians, (says) the local community is against the proposed 2,316 acre mega quarry, which would be a quarter the size of downtown Toronto and 1.5 times deeper than Niagara Falls. …He said the massive hole will require 600-million litres of water to be pumped out each day. ‘The concern is for all the wells in the area, all the head waters of the river as well,’ Calzavara told 680News. The quarry would sit right on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, which is an officially declared, a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.”

“Calzavara said time to stop the project is running out, ‘the Highlands Company, that’s the company that wants to do this, they filed their application 40 days ago now. They are hoping to start digging their quarry as soon as they get approval.”

The news reports are at http://www.680news.com/news/local/article/216258–first-nation-community-protest-mega-quarry-plans-for-niagara-escarpment and http://www.thestar.com/mobile/news/ontario/article/979187–activists-embark-on-five-day-walk-to-protest-mega-quarry.

Update 2: A media release issued this (Saturday) morning states, “Dozens of people marched from the outskirts of Toronto through Brampton today on the second of a five day trek against a proposed 2316-acre mega-quarry to be situated in Melancthon…”

“Mark Calzavara, of the advocacy group The Council of Canadians, joined the marchers as they travelled up Hurontario Street. ‘We need to make smarter choices than we have made in the past about our farmland,’ says Calzavara. ‘A mega-quarry may be more profitable than a farm today but we need to think about the next generations too. Where will their food come from? At what point do we say no to this kind of short-term thinking?'”

“Carl Cosack, a local cattle and horse rancher, is worried the mega-quarry will harm water supplies. ‘It will destroy productive farmland and threaten the headwaters of three important rivers – the Grand, the Nottawasaga and the Pine – which are water sources for one million people’ he said.”

And the Guelph Mercury reports, “City of Guelph staff are analyzing a proposed quarry more than 60 kilometres from here to determine whether Guelph should take an official position on it.”

“Guelph resident Karen Balcom recently wrote to Mayor Karen Farbridge and city councillors, asking them to have staff examine the quarry proposal and to contact Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Ministry of Natural Resources to seek an extension to the deadline for public comments, which is next Tuesday. …Balcom is concerned because the proposed quarry would be located on the Amabel-Lockport-Guelph aquifer, ‘which is critical to the water security and water safety of the people of Guelph and … much of southwestern Ontario. The water issues are just astounding.'”

“Peter Busatto, the city’s general manager of water services, said city officials are primarily concerned about the impact the water-taking could have, ‘because we are wholly reliant on groundwater. That’s the key issue.'”

“In a recent letter to McGuinty, Melancthon Township Mayor Bill Hill noted his township is at the headwaters of five major rivers — including the Grand — ‘and the impact of this project will affect approximately one million Ontarians downstream from our township.’ Hill said he met recently with Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey and came away from the meeting feeling the province is ready to ‘rubber stamp’ the quarry proposal.”

“The proposed pit will be 60 metres (200 feet) in depth — well below the water table — requiring the operators to pump a reported 600 million litres of water from the quarry each day. Highland has said it will pump that water back into the aquifer (water table), but opponents are concerned about the water being exposure to dirt, diesel fuel and blasting residue before it is pumped back into the ground.”

Update 3: On Sunday morning, 680News reported, “A group of protestors on a five day march against a proposed mega-quarry passed the half-way mark of their 119 kilometre journey Sunday morning, just outside of Orangeville. …They plan to finish the march with a rally on Tuesday afternoon at a potato farm next to the proposed quarry site on Highway 124. …Carl Cosack, a local cattle and horse rancher, is worried the proposed mega-quarry will harm water supplies. ‘It will destroy productive farmland and threaten the headwaters of three important rivers – the Grand, the Nottawasaga and the Pine- water sources for one million people. 200 feet below the water table is deeper than Niagara Falls and will require the extraction of 600 million litres of water per day. They claim it will not have a negative impact, it’s simply not credible.'”

And on Sunday afternoon, the Toronto Star continued to follow this story. That report notes, “Because the water table in Melancthon Township is high, Highland would have to pump 600 million litres of water a day from the quarry, equivalent to the volume used by 2.7 million Ontarians. Having to store the water for three days to reduce sediment means having to handle 1.8 billion litres of water per day, both sides agree. The technology exists to manage such volumes, the company says.”

Past campaign blogs on this can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=melancthon.