The Red Deer County Municipal Planning Commission voted overwhelmingly September 21, 2010, against a “discretionary use” application for a gravel quarrying operation in an alluvial aquifer West of Innisfail, Alberta.
Before the vote, Ken Collier, chair of the Red Deer and Area chapter of the Council of Canadians, wrote that, “At least two alarming aspects are in that application – digging gravel pits into the aquifer water (largely to get cheap washed gravel) and allowing an asphalt plant. Asphalt leaches benzene, which will then enter the Red Deer water supply, not to mention water for farmers and ranchers locally and everyone else downstream, all the way through the Saskatchewan River system to Hudson’s Bay.”
Collier adds that, “Because this pit application is in such an environmentally sensitive area, prone to flooding and overland stream migration, its use as a precedent endangers not only the waters in the rivers, but also undermines the very process of decision-making about projects that may affect water.”
The Red Deer Advocate newspaper had reported in April that, “An alluvial aquifer is formed when water fills deposits of sand, silt and gravel left from former river channels that have changed course over time. …(There is concern that) three new gravel mines, now being proposed by private contractors on neighbouring farmland, (may) contaminate or cut off the water supply. Right now, (there is) an abundance of clean water (that)… flows through underground veins of gravel connecting the (Medicine and Red Deer) rivers. …The type of pit being proposed acts like putting a thumb on a vein to stop the flow of blood. The pit is dug below the high water line and then sealed with clay to keep it dry, blocking the water flow through the aquifer…”
The Red Deer and Area CofC chapter acted in concert with the Medicine Flats Aquifer Commiittee and the Butte Action Committee, who work on rural issues, together with concerned landowners adjacent to the proposed gravel quarry. Environmental, fish and game and air quality issues spurred local people to criticize this project and other similar plans in the region. The Medicine Flats Committee wanted to “fill the Red Deer County chambers” for the vote. The call said, “We need to make a statement about the priority of safe source water, healthy air and safety for our children and theirs.” They also asked people to telephone their councillors before the vote.
Congratulations to the CofC Red Deer chapter and the local rural residents!