Puslinch council seeks unified voice in dealing with Lafarge application

ABERFOYLE – It may be one aggregate pit, but it could impact Puslinch, Guelph-Eramosa and Guelph.

That is why Puslinch councillors hope to develop a unified voice to deal with the reopening of the Lafarge pit on the border of Puslinch and Guelph-Eramosa.

The pit is located on the south side of Highway 124, in the townships of Guelph-Eramosa and Puslinch and within 1,800 metres of a Guelph municipal well.

Prior to the Puslinch council discussion on July 17, councillor Jessica Goyda declared a pecuniary interest as she has a family member who operates an aggregate business in Puslinch.

In a letter to Puslinch Township, Robert Cumming, environment and public affairs director with Lafarge Canada Inc. (East Canada), outlined the company’s application for an amendment to its permit to take water.

The Lafarge Wellington site has been in operation for nearly 50 years.

Over that time, the licensed site has periodically operated as a sand and gravel quarry, and also hosted a ready mix concrete plant as well as an asphalt plant operated by another company via lease.

“In order to meet Ontario’s infrastructure demands, the site is being readied to re-commence aggregate production under its existing license,” Cumming stated.

Before recommencing operations, the company is required to amend its permit to take water.

Cummings suggested “the word take can be partially misleading.”

“Our water use may be better described as water handling, rather than consumption,” he stated.

Dewatering of the quarry involves pumping out storm water and groundwater.

The water from the upper bedrock aquifer would be discharged back into the wetland and Speed River, where much of it will infiltrate back into the aquifer system.

“This is by design as we recognize local concerns about groundwater use and consumption; we feel it is important to emphasize that the majority of the water resource is kept within the community,” stated Cummings.

“Knowing the importance of groundwater Lafarge has also taken a position in this application that Lafarge will not extract aggregate below the Vinemount aquitard.”

He added, “We have engaged skilled experts to conduct thorough water evaluations and studies to ensure we mitigate potential adverse effects of this proposed new water handling, including a year-long engineering and sampling program to measure and assess the site (followed by additional months of study).”

He also stated the potential groundwater radius of influence is 500m from the quarry wall, noting the nearest municipal wells (city of Guelph) are 1,800m to the north and northeast – so the proposed dewatering should not limit available pumping from those municipal wells.

The EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) posting for the permit details the water taking from the quarry as follows:

– maximum rate per minute: 14,930 lites;

– maximum number of hours of taking per day: 24;

– maximum volume per day: 21.5 million litres;

– maximum number of days of taking per year: 365;

– period of taking: 10 years.

Councillor John Sepulis suggested the township request the MOE issue a five-year permit instead of a 10-year permit.

“That would be consistent with our previous statements,” he said.

Sepulis added the permit “is for a larger volume of water than I’ve seen before.”

He also suggested Mayor the mayors of Guelph and Guelph-Eramosa “to come up with a united strategy to deal with this issue and the upcoming issue of the site plan.”

He said he believes the municipalities should not be reacting individually and apart from each other.

“I don’t know whether the original site conditions or requirements would prevail … I suspect not.”

Sepulis wanted to know if regulations regarding site requirement are the same, and whether there would be any information sessions to allow council and members of the public to comment.

He said he remains concerned that items such as hours of operation, location of pit faces and other matters may need to be addressed.

Councillor Ken Roth said he did not object to the suggestions, “but whether we have any control over it, I don’t know.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said his immediate concern was in regard to water taking.

“In the past, we’ve often had our hydrogeologist review the applications to provide informed comments to the MOE.”

Regarding the site plans, Bulmer stated that control is under the Aggregate Resources Act.

He added if there were any significant changes, there is a process within the Aggregate Resources Act.

Sepulis said “given the experience with another company in this area, I want to put something in writing. I don’t want us to be blindsided.”

Sepulis said “since it has been at least 30 years since the pit has been used, things have changed in the area.”

He said it looks like a lot more excavation is planned – possibly more than on the original site plan.

Sepulis also wanted to know whether the original site plan is still valid. Even if it is, he said, a public meeting would be useful to re-educate the public.

Bulmer agreed “coordinating efforts with Guelph-Eramosa is very important. It is a site which crosses the boundary and we need to work closely, to avoid contradicting each other.”

Bulmer added that since this was not a zone change, he wasn’t seeking a hydrogeological analysis in terms of rezoning, but rather to confirm the stated impacts of the water taking are as proposed, without impact to neighbouring wells drawing from the same aquifer.

Seeley wondered if the province would not undertake its own review of the hydrogeology.

Bulmer agreed, but stated it was the municipality’s practice to undertake studies, noting, “We did the same thing with Nestlé and most large water taking permits to date.”

Seeley stated that if the township asks for a five-year permit instead of 10-years, it must be qualified.

Bulmer stated that since this is a significant water taking, “it warrants our hydrogeologist looking at the report and the potential impact to neighbouring residents.”

He agreed to leave it to the Grand River Conservation Authority to determine the impact to the watercourse (with the additional water flow.)

Roth added any local studies will likely not make an impact because it is the MOE that approves the permit to take water.

“I just can’t see us spending the money because the end result will not be different,” he said.

Seeley had similar concerns.

He said, “Guelph-Eramosa and the city may not want to hire a hydrogeologist. I would prefer to have a united front.”

As a result, council opted not to proceed with bringing in the hydrogeologist at this time.

Sepulis maintained “the bottom line is that there needs to be a united front and strategy.”