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Quarry licence premature: MOE

By Chris Halliday Jun 30, 2011 - 6:49 PM

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) received more than 2,000 letters of concern regarding The Highland Companies plans for a Melancthon quarry, but none may carry more weight than one sent by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE). In its letter dated April 26 the final day of the Aggregate Resources Acts (ARA) commenting period the MOE raises concerns about the application, questioning surface water implications and the findings of the companys environmental impact studies. It is our position that the reports failed to demonstrate a three-dimensional understanding of the geology, hydrogeology, and hydrology of the site, the MOE letter states. Later in its letter, the MOE notes its expectations for a thorough groundwater recharge study had not been met at that time. As a result, MOE said it would be premature to issue an aggregate licence to The Highland Companies until a thorough three-dimensional understanding of the geology, stratigraphy and hydrogeological characteristics of the site are presented in a clear and concise manner. In addition, MOE requested The Highland Companies provide more convincing evidence about how the groundwater recharge system it plans to employ will work.The recharge system proposal was supported neither by proof of concept data nor by comparisons with existing recharge systems at other quarries, the MOEs letter states. More information will be required to address how future monitoring, trigger mechanisms, and contingency plans will ensure that potential impacts to surrounding surface water features are adequately addressed. Jolanta Kowalski, spokesperson for the MNR, said the ministry received more than 2,000 letters of concern during the ARAs 45-day commenting period regarding The Highland Companies application for a 2,316 aggregate licence in Melancthon. The company now has up to two years until March 2013 to resolve any concerns to the application, and if complaints remain unresolved, the ministry can refer the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board. According to Lindsay Broadhead, spokesperson for The Highland Companies, the MOEs letter of concern has been reviewed and the company will take whatever steps to ensure the ministry has all the information it needs to undertake a full and complete evaluation. She also explained every comment the

company has received, including the MOEs concerns, is carefully reviewed and will contribute to the future direction of The Highland Companies project. Our technical consultants are working through the details of the ministrys comments and will determine what additional information is required for that evaluation to occur, Broadhead said in an email. We are committed to having no negative impact on water resources and will do whatever is necessary to provide that protection. Some critics of The Highland Companies quarry application have stated the licence area in Melancthon is the primary recharge source for the Nottawasaga and Grand River systems, claiming a limestone quarry could potentially impact the water sources of about one million people in Ontario, extending from Lake Simcoe to Lake Erie. Referring to reports in its aggregate application at an information session in Hornings Mills last April, experts for The Highland Companies claimed the projects design and water management plan ensures no ones water will be affected beyond its property line, and would not have any adverse effect on the existing or future sources of groundwater in the area. Our team of environmental experts is confident our proposed water management system will ensure that our commitment to protecting water resources is met, Broadhead added. Quarry opponents have been skeptical, however, and if you ask Harvey Kolodny, chair of the Citizen's Alliance United for a Sustainable Environment (CAUSE), the MOE's letter of objection is further proof the quarry proposal is flawed. The evidence showing that this quarry proposal presents serious environmental impacts is overwhelming, Kolodny said in a news release, claiming Highlands experts spent years compiling technical studies and reports in its lengthy application. Despite this, The Highland Companies has submitted a proposal that does not adequately address, or properly assess, the serious environmental consequences associated with their application. According to Carl Cosack, vice-chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural Community Taskforce (NDACT), it is telling that the MOE has added its name to the list of citizens and groups in Ontario raising questions about application. There is no way that they can pursue this proposal, which includes manipulating and pumping 600 million litres of water per day, without creating significant damage to the sensitive water resources of this area, Cosack claimed. The objection raised by the Ministry of Environment and numerous others is just further proof.