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NEWS: Ontario environment ministry expresses ‘serious concerns’ about Melancthon quarry

The Wellington Advertiser reports, “The formal response to the Melancthon quarry was filed by the technical staff at the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) during the original comment period. Just recently, those comments were posted publicly on the internet. ‘MOE officials stated it is their position that the documents submitted by the quarry proponents failed to demonstrate a three dimensional understanding of the geology, hydrogeology and hydrology of the site,’ (Guelph MPP Liz) Sandals said in her email.”

“Among the reasons for the position they took, MOE staff cited: numerous discrepancies between the text and the observations and data; the absence of a three dimensional conceptual model of the site, including the overburden stratigraphy, bedrock stratigraphy and connection of surface water features with the bedrock; geologic and hydrogeologic data not presented in three dimensions; statements and conclusions were made in the text that were not supported by either data or citations; and the recharge system proposal was supported neither by proof of concept data nor by comparisons with existing recharge systems at other quarries.”

“Minister of the Environment and Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson did not respond to a request for an interview, but he did email a statement. In it, he cited the MOE’s role in protecting human health and the environment, and said his ministry would contact the Ministry of Natural Resources about issues dealing with water if there are concerns. ‘In regard to the proposed Highland quarry project in Melancthon; the Ministry of the Environment has raised serious concerns with the Ministry of Natural Resources concerning water,’ Wilkinson stated in his email. ‘The company has up to two years to attempt to address all of the concerns submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources, including those raised by the Ministry of the Environment. Of note, this is the very beginning of the process and it would be premature to prejudge the outcome.’ But, he added, ‘Even if a quarry is approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources, it can not extract aggregate below the water table unless it subsequently receives a Permit to Take Water from the Ministry of the Environment. That is yet another safeguard to protect our vital ground water resources.'”

In early-August, the Toronto Sun reported, “A decision is ‘years away’, said Ken Chan, a natural resources ministry spokesman. Staff will review 3,735 ‘comments’ received after the deadline for public input was extended to July 11, plus 2,051 previous ‘objections’, Chan said. Highland has two years to deal with objectors, which he called ‘a major hurdle. No licence can be approved until zoning applications have been resolved.’”

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent of the proposed Melancthon mega-quarry.

The Highland Companies, backed by a Boston-based multi-billion dollar hedge fund, the Baupost Group, is proposing a massive 2,316-acre open pit limestone mega quarry in Melancthon Township, 100 kilometres north of Toronto. The edge of the quarry would border the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. It would destroy productive farmland, pollute the air with the thousands of 40-ton trucks needed for it every day, and threaten the area’s water. Below the proposed quarry lies the Amabel-Lockport-Guelph aquifer that forms the headwaters of five major river systems – the Pine, the Grand, the Nottawasaga, the Saugeen and the Beaver – that are important drinking water sources for more than a million people. The quarry would blast 60 metres (deeper than Niagara Falls) beneath the water table and use approximately 600 million litres of water per day. The company plans to pump that water – collected daily on the open pit mine floor, and likely now contaminated with blasting residue and diesel fuel – back into the wells around the quarry. The aggregate from the quarry would be used for construction in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area, as well as in Barrie, although there are concerns that some of it could be exported on the Great Lakes from the Owen Sound harbour.

The Council of Canadians supports the call for both a provincial and federal environmental assessment of the quarry proposal to expose its evident hazards.

The full Wellington Advertiser article is at http://www.wellingtonadvertiser.com/index.cfm?page=detail&itmno=9566.