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NEWS: Dump in Oak Ridges Moraine threatens aquifer

The Toronto Star reports this morning that since last May, “An old gravel pit on the Oak Ridges Moraine (in south-central Ontario) has become a repository for commercial fill – soil dug out from development sites across Greater Toronto. …Testing has shown evidence of heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons that in at least one sample exceeded permitted levels. …Residents have formed a group called Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water and are prodding politicians to intervene, noting that the 25-hectare property on Lakeridge Rd. sits atop a natural aquifer from which most residents draw their water.”

“(The area) sits on the watershed for three lakes… (and) just down the hill from the (commercial fill) site is the Chalk Lake natural spring, where thousands of people collect drinking water.”

“Growing concerns among residents about possible contamination prompted the Township of Scugog to yank the dumping permit last October. But 2241960 Ontario Inc., a company operating under the name Earthworx Industries, has ignored the decision, and still has loaded trucks coming to the site six days a week. It says it is not subject to the municipality’s rules because it is building an aerodrome, which is regulated by Transport Canada. The township is going to Superior Court on Monday to set a date for an injunction hearing, while Earthworx wants to argue in Divisional Court that the township does not have jurisdiction. Residents fear this fight will be tied up in the courts for ages, eventually becoming a moot point if the gravel pit is filled.”

“Ian McLaurin, a spokesperson for (Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water), said they simply want dumping stopped within the moraine area until better regulations are in place. ‘We also without want assurances that there has been no impact on the groundwater, and wherever that ground water is travelling to,’ McLaurin said.”

Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) further explains that, “The Oak Ridges Moraine is a landform unique to southern Ontario. (It) extends 160 kilometres from the Niagara Escarpment in the west to the Trent River system in the east, and is on average 13 kilometres wide. …Its most precious feature lies hidden below the ground surface. One of the moraine’s most important functions is as a water recharge/discharge area – sustaining the health of the many watersheds, which originate in the moraine and directly providing drinking water to over 250,000 people. It has been described as southern Ontario’s rain barrel – its permeable sands and gravels absorb and collect precipitation, which slowly recharge the deep aquifers below the ground. These sand and gravel aquifers store, filter and release this groundwater to over 65 watercourses flowing north and south into Georgian Bay, Lakes Simcoe, Scugog, Rice and Ontario. At the same time, unprecedented human exploitation of this groundwater places the moraine in a precarious ecological position. …Municipalities and the provincial government continue…processing applications for development and official plan amendments in the absence of a comprehensive groundwater management strategy. Land-use changes, primarily the building of residential subdivisions, the construction of roads and the paving of parking lots increase the imperviousness of the ground surface, stopping water from entering the hydrologic cycle. …Water-taking, associated with these new land uses, further exacerbates the pressure on the resource. Not only is precipitation blocked from entering the ground but more water is being removed. Municipal water supplies, golf courses and commercial water-bottling companies have, by necessity, began to ‘go deeper’ into the moraine to find adequate quantities of drinkable and usable water.”

Toronto-based Council of Canadians Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara has been actively monitoring this situation.

The Toronto Star article is at http://www.thestar.com/news/article/938201–fears-of-contaminated-soil-on-oak-ridges-moraine?bn=1.