Residents launch science-based attack on ‘hidden quarry’

BRUCEDALE – The Concerned Residents Coalition (CRC) brought forward expert witnesses this week for a scientific assault on the proposed “hidden quarry” on Highway 7 just east of Rockwood.

Testimony continues at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) hearing at the Guelph-Eramosa Township office.

Hearing chair Scott Tousaw will decide the fate of the James Dick Construction Ltd. (JDCL) quarry plan after testimony and final arguments in July.

CRC led off its case with ecologist Zack Harris of Dougan and Associates, a certified wetland evaluator.

He said it is his opinion that JDCL’s natural environment report provided “insufficient” information to determine if the quarry would have an impact on the nearby Allen wetland.

Harris said there may have been changes in plant species since data was collected most recently in 2010-11. He noted the JDCL report had no details about where listed plant species were observed, and that it used outdated terminology.

“The wetland does extend into the quarry site,” he said. “Sensitive plant species were not noted.”

He said a water balance assessment should have been done for the Allen pond. He noted that various wetland plants would be sensitive to a drawdown of ground water due to the quarry, and that they could die off in the area.

“It raises a red flag for me,” Harris said.

During cross examination, JDCL lawyer David White noted the company’s consultant continued to inspect the area twice annually since the data was collected, and that there had been an increase of invasive species on the quarry site.

He told Harris the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Grand River Conservation Authority had indicated no outstanding concerns about the area.

Harris responded that his opinion was not affected by the position of those agencies.

The Allen and De Grandis ponds are part of a 27-acre provincially significant wetland area north of, and draining through, the quarry site.

The water flows to Brydson Creek.

Hydrogeologist Garry Hunter was among the witnesses scheduled to appear for CRC this week. He has 40 years of experience as an environmental systems planner and engineer.

Other CRC witnesses will cover specialty areas ranging from ground-penetrating radar and aquatic biology to rock blasting.

On June 24, Halton Region’s planning expert Nick McDonald said the “probability is low that the pit will have no impact on natural features” and a monitoring plan with “trigger points” should be mandated if the pit goes ahead.

He also said it is “not appropriate” for the Ministry of Transportation to plan improvements to critical intersections along the haul route through Acton only after a decision on the quarry is made.

“The number of trucks and turns could be significantly higher than predicted,” he said.

Testimony from expert witnesses supporting the JDCL proposal wrapped up on June 11. On June 17 and 18, community residents had a chance to testify, prior to experts from CRC.

An unofficial commentary on the proceedings is being published by CRC media officer Linda Sword on Facebook: Concerned Residents Coalition-No Hidden Quarry.

According to the Facebook page, Doug Webster was the first resident to testify. He lives just downstream of the proposed quarry, and is concerned about blasting vibration damaging his heritage home and barn, and about water quality impacts and loss of property value.

JDCL’s David White said the company has been meticulous in meeting provincial guidelines, but Webster said he still has no guarantee the quarry will not cause damage on his property.

Dr. Stephanie De Grandis said the drawdown of groundwater levels due to the quarry would be a threat to her farm business.

Natalie Jaroszewski of nearby W&T Mushroom Ltd. stressed that mushroom growing is susceptible to even small changes in the quality of air and water.

Henrietta Kingshott had similar concerns, saying noise and dust could impact horses at her track training operation, and water contamination could affect wetlands on her property.

Arlene Slocombe of Wellington Water Watchers said there is a need to protect the Paris Galt Moraine from any threats to its water filtration functions.