CBM Aggregates applies for another gravel pit licence in Puslinch

Residents concerned about loss of farmland, natural heritage as well as environmental degradation from pit operations

PUSLINCH – CBM Aggregates has applied for another gravel pit license in Puslinch that will include extraction below the water table.

The company is calling it an expansion of the Aberfoyle South Pit, but the property in question, 6947 Concession 2, is two kilometres away from the Aberfoyle South pit site and separated by two other pits.

The area is approximately 27.5 hectares in size and maximum depth of extraction is expected to be approximately 20 to 25 metres below the current ground surface, to a lowest elevation of 285 metres above sea level.

The company anticipates extraction both above and below the water table will be completed at the pit, with raw aggregate temporarily stockpiled on-site and then be processed at the Aberfoyle South Pit operation.

CBM officials say they believe there is 5.5 million tonnes of high-quality sand and gravel at the site and they expect to work the site for six to 10 years, with a maximum annual extraction of 1 million tonnes.

According to the application, site operations will not involve any pumping or active dewatering and there will be no direct off-site discharge of water to any watercourse or wetland.

The pit will operate from 7am to 7pm on weekdays and shipping hours will be from 7am to 6pm on weekdays and 8am to 4pm on Saturdays.

CBM proposes a new entrance at the east end of the site, with a haul route on Concession 2 to the Aberfoyle South Pit.

Trucks will not be permitted to travel west on Concession 2 or use Sideroad 20, according to the application.

No extraction or disturbance is proposed in any portion of the adjacent Mill Creek provincially significant wetland and extraction will be setback a minimum of 30m from this feature.

“The removal of aggregate resources from below the water table will result in the creation of a lake that will be approximately 26 hectares (64 acres) in size,” reads the application.

“Approximately 0.3 hectares (0.7 acres) of new wetland habitat will be created in setbacks adjacent to the Mill Creek wetland. In addition, approximately 6.7 ha (16.5 acres) of new forest habitat will be created in setback areas.”

Local resident John McNie, who is also a member of the Mill Creek Stewards Association, is worried about the impact of yet another aggregate operation in the township.

This site, he said, is 60% farmland and 40% provincially significant wetland, and 80% of the property is bordered by Mill Creek or its tributaries.

“The Mill Creek itself is a federally recognized cold-water fish habitat and its sub-watershed, comprising a third of the township’s landmass, is defined as the largest wildlife corridor in southern Wellington County,” McNie stated in an email.

“It is zoned Natural Environment and Officially Planned Core Greenland with no Mineral Extraction Overlay.”

McNie said Puslinch is a community that is “broken” by some 2,000 acres of aggregate pit “sprawl,” and that environmental mitigation efforts are “questionable.”

Mill Creek has experienced contamination, temperature change, water flow levels and groundwater flow direction reversals as a result of existing aggregate operations, he said.

“This application pushes all the wrong community environmental buttons,” he added.

McNie said past practice of aggregate companies has been to make the pit license application – including the mitigation measures it will take to restore the land – and then later apply for compliance relief.

The original application is reviewed by numerous bodies, including the township, county, conservation authorities and so on, but compliance relief applications are decided by just a handful of ministry staff.

“Many pits here have had compliance relief,” McNie said in a subsequent interview. “This is where trust comes in.

“If aggregate operations would agree to do what they say, we would have more faith in them coming into our community.”

CBM’s director of land, resource and environment David Hanratty, said the company has followed all the steps as set out by the Aggregate Resources Act to protect the environment and its neighbours.

“We have spent the last six years completing our studies and have designed the site to minimize impacts on all surrounding natural features, including the wetlands, Mill Creek and the woodland,” he said.

“Our studies have concluded that the pit, with the proposed design and mitigation, would have no adverse impact on these features.”

Hanratty added, “This application will now go through a rigorous review process in which experts from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Grand River Conservation Authority, in addition to the Township of Puslinch and County of Wellington, will have an opportunity to scrutinize our impact assessment and provide comments.”

McNie said CBM’s consultants did not enter any private property to assess well water or determine how land is being used around the proposed new pit.

“The information they made their conclusions on is not complete. It’s all based on a house of cards, with very unstable cards,” he added.

Puslinch council has expressed frustration in the past with CBM, which has many pits in the township, including:

  • leaving mud and debris on township roads;
  • not having flagpersons where aggregate vehicles cross township roads; and
  • mitigation and restoration that has not happened.

The township has hired a consultant to go through all of the aggregate pit licences in the township to ensure they meet all their obligations.

And in 2020 the township asked CBM to cease extraction below the water table because of negative impacts on neighbouring wells and wetlands.

At its April 10 meeting, Puslinch council authorized staff to write a letter objecting to the latest CBM proposal and bring the letter back to council for approval on May 1.

But Hanratty says CBM has resolved past issues.

“We have always operated in compliance with our licenses,” he wrote.

“We have disagreed with [the township’s] interpretation of our license requirements in the past and have been working with Puslinch council over the past year to resolve our differences.

“More broadly speaking, we are always committed to complying with the laws, regulations and standards that are in effect for our industry.”

The 60-day clock for commenting on this application started ticking on April 3.

A virtual public information session hosted by CBM will be held on May 8 from 6 to 8pm to provide information to the public and answer questions. There is a link to register at cbmaberfoylepit.ca/Projects/index.html.

The Mill Creek Stewards Association has a website with information about the application at https://win.newmode.net/mcsai/commonsense.

The final date to comment to the Environmental Registry of Ontario on the application is June 3.