This is a guest posting by Dennis Shouldice, a Georgian Bluffs ratepayer with a local concern that seems to be repeated all along the Niagara Escarpment. At Escarpment Views, we let citizens and community groups express their concerns and issues. Please add your comments after you’ve read Dennis’s opinion.
The Niagara Escarpment is a valuable asset that accommodates many wonderful species worth protecting. The Keppel Quarry is located within the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) area in the Township of Georgian Bluffs just northwest of Owen Sound. The operator of the proposed Keppel Quarry expansion has an application before the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) to rezone the site of the proposed expansion from NEP Rural to NEP Mining. The file is known as PG167 07. There are many reasons why the application to expand the existing near-depleted Keppel Quarry should be denied.
In 1994 an inventory of the species within the wetland adjacent to the proposed Keppel Quarry Expansion identified “a total of 89 breeding bird species recorded at the site, including the provincially recognized species of concern, the Red Shouldered Hawk, the Black-crowned Night-Heron and the Great Egret. There are an outstanding 30 forest interior birds and a Heron rockery containing over 50 nests.”
Since the existing Keppel Quarry began excavating in 1988, neighbours to the wetland nearby the quarry have reported substantial declines of heron, ducks, and the frogs on which they feed. There is great concern that the proposed expansion of the Keppel Quarry will do further damage to the rare species that once flourished within this Provincially Significant Wetland, an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest and a World Biosphere Reserve.
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Research of the files obtained from the Ministry of Environment (MoE)and Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) under the Freedom of Information Act have uncovered numerous disturbing issues related to the Keppel Quarry operator’s compliance with its Certificates of Approval, the Acts and Regulations.
During 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 the operator pumped exceedances of Unionized Ammonia (NH3) that were in excess of its Certificate of Approval. The MoE was unsuccessful at working with the operator to maintain NH3 levels within the operator’s permitted levels. Waste water is pumped from the quarry as the operator blasts and extracts the fractured rock below the water table. NH3 is a byproduct of the explosive materials used by the quarry operator to fracture the Escarpment. NH3 is known to have devastating impact on the breathing mechanisms of fish and thin skinned amphibians.
“Experiments have shown that exposure to un-ionized ammonia concentrations as low as 0.002 mg/l for six weeks causes hyperplasia of gill lining in salmon fingerlings and may lead to bacterial gill disease.” See more at: http://www.water-research.net/Watershed/ammonia.htm.
In August 2006, the month the MoE completed its Closure Report and released the operator for its breaches of its Certificate of Approval, the operator was pumping industrial waste sewage water with concentrations of .03 mg/L, a level that is 15 times greater than levels found by independent experiments to have caused damage to fish breathing mechanisms.
The February 9, 2009 MoE Inspection Report for the Keppel Quarry indicates that during 2006 the quarry pumped on average four hours per day for 160 days of the year with an average of 1,222,543 litres of waste water pumped from the quarry per day . The total pumped from the quarry in 2006 was in excess of 195 million litres of waste water.
The MoE has confirmed that the wastewater has been flowing towards the pond that feeds the headwaters of the Park Head Creek within the Provincially Significant Wetland.
Discussions with the ministries responsible for protecting the species with the wetland found that the ministries were not communicating with each other about the polluting events nor were they enforcing the regulations and acts that were designed to protect the valued species. Letters of objection were sent to the MoE, MNR, NEC, Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Read some of these letters and comments from objectors that are posted at this site:
On August 16, 2010 the NEC staff report recommended that the application to permit the rezoning of the proposed Keppel Quarry site be approved to permit the mining operations within the NEP area. On September 16, 2010, the NEC wisely decided to set aside the recommendations of the NEC staff report when it decided to postpone its decision on the proposed rezoning application, pending an independent peer review of the water flow studies conducted by the consultants who were paid by the quarry operator as part of its application per the Aggregate Resources Act. NEC gave direction that the First Nations people would be involved in the peer review process.
This is a landmark decision. Yet, the outcome of the application to expand the Keppel Quarry is still unknown.
Many believe that a new independent inventory of the valued species in the wetland adjacent to the proposed site of the Keppel Quarry expansion should be conducted. A confirmation of the decline of the valued species would mean that the Keppel Quarry should not be permitted to expand. Other sites that are less ecologically sensitive and further away from the source water of this headland should be considered as alternate sites. It is an opinion that is shared by others: Blast extracted rock quarries should not be permitted within the NEPlan area.
If you share a concern about the expansion of the Keppel Quarry, please make your feelings known to:
Honorable Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources, Ontario
Honorable John Wilkinson, Minister of Environment, MOE, Ontario
Honorable Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario,
Dave Gibson, Environmental Impact, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Andrew Sorensen, Environmental Planner, Grey Sauble Conservation Authority
Members of the NEC, (c/o Kathryn Pounder(MNR) firstname.lastname@example.org
Honorable James Bradley, MPP, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing,
Honorable Carol Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs,
Lorraine Land, Legal Counsel, Saugeen Ojibway Nation,
Owen Sound Suntimes:
The Niagara Escarpment is a valuable asset that needs to be protected from damaging impacts. What are your comments?