PROTECTING Our Escarpment
PitSense is a community of people organized to respond to proposals for further increases in the number and size of aggregate operations in Caledon.
We are opposed to the continuing 'Domino Effect' growth of open pit mines and quarries in the agricultural and rural residential areas of the Niagara Escarpment and UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
... Mahatma Gandhi
Dear Mayor and Councillors;
I / We have reviewed the agenda for the coming five day Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference and find it absent of topics and issues that are related to aggregate pits and quarries.
The impact pits and quarries have on the rural residential population is immense. It is almost inconceivable that this topic would not be addressed during the conference.
In particular, we believe the following six issues must be addressed.
1. Compensation to homeowners for property devaluation.
2. Compensation to the Municipalities or loss of property tax revenue.
3. Increase in royalties payable to municipalities.
4. Establishment of greater minimum separation distances between aggregate operations and settlements.
5. Change the policy that allows the MNR to unilaterally, without approval of the municipality, approve amendments to conditions on licenses and site plans that were set during the public process. For example current policy allows changes of licenses from “above water” to “below water”, without approval by the municipality
6. Require better enforcement of site plans and regulations, including rehabilitation and restrictions on and oversight of “fill” for rehabilitated sites.
Please raise these issues on behalf of all those who are affected by the continuing growth of aggregate operations,
particularly on the Niagara Escarpment. Also please advise us of the outcome of the conference in this regard.
Thank you for your efforts.
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Dear Mayor and Councillors:
The Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) is holding its annual conference starting February 27th in Toronto. We trust that Caledon will be properly represented. It appears that there are a number of topics scheduled for discussion but noticeably absent from the list are issues related to pits and quarries.
We are hereby requesting that you raise the issues generally related to pits and quarries
We would like you to pursue changes to legislation and regulations that would result in requiring pit/quarry applicants to meet certain strict criteria prior to being granted any operating license.
Please seek to establish the following principles …
Economic Sense. Applicants and operators must be held accountable for the negative financial impact on all properties whose values decrease, or businesses that are harmed, due to the threat of and operation of their pits or quarries. They should compensate the Town of Caledon for lost tax revenues incurred due to reduced property values in the affected area. Applicants/operators must also be required to provide sufficient financial resources in the form of performance bonds to cover all costs of both predictable and unforeseen damages, as well as rehabilitation. We ask you to obtain an increase in royalties payable to municipalities to help offset costs related to aggregate operations, and / or require applicants to pay the costs of peer reviews required by the municipality. Unless specifically required in the municipality’s Official Plan, current processes place the cost of these reviews on municipalities and residents’ groups who have inadequate resources to fund them.
Ecological and Environmental Sense. Applicants must demonstrate that there will be no adverse effects on the ecology due to their proposed operations. For example in the case of the proposed McCormick pit the applicants should adhere to the spirit and regulations of the various agencies that have jurisdiction in the area, such as Niagara Escarpment Commission, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Credit Valley Conservation, Town of Caledon Official Plan and Ministry of Environment regulations. We do not believe that the MNR should be able to unilaterally, without approval of the municipality, approve amendments to conditions on licenses and site plans that were set during the public process. Current policy allows MNR approval of many significant amendments, including changes of licenses from “above water” to “below water”, without approval by the municipality. We also request that you press for changes that would result in better enforcement of site plans and regulations, including rehabilitation. The MNR is understaffed and unable to adequately monitor operations. Pits and quarries are inspected, on average, once every five to seven years. Further, it is estimated that less than half of excavated lands are being rehabilitated. “Fill” used to rehabilitate these pits/quarries has also come under the microscope lately. A municipal policy that supersedes all other regulations from a Provincial or Federal to protect the residents of Caledon from contaminated land and water is also imperative.
Sociological Sense. Pit/quarry applicants must be required to prove that operations in rural residential areas will have no negative impacts on the health or safety of their neighbours and their normal peaceful enjoyment of their properties. We want to see the establishment of more reasonable minimum separation distances between aggregate operations and residential areas. The current required setback does not allow adequate protection from negative impacts.
Thank you for representing our concerns.
Sample letters to be sent to municipal leaders prior to February 27 ROMA conference:
Letter to Editor of Caledon Citizen ...
Title: More than environmental factors at stake
In your article “Jones questions Minister about Melancthon quarry”, 9 June 2011, the Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey assures us that it’s her job to ensure that “all environmental concerns, health concerns or safety concerns are addressed before any license is issued”.
If she can indeed live up to that job it would be a great start but there are other considerations. Two of the most easily measured consequences of new gravel pits and quarries (and wind farms too) are the loss of private property value in the vicinity of the operations or haul routes, and the increased maintenance costs on municipal infrastructure. If we were to take these costs fully into account it might very well change the logic of whether these operations are worthwhile even before environmental, health or safety impacts are assessed.
Why should residents be forced to subsidize local economic activity through a loss in their property values or a reallocation of their municipal taxes for new infrastructure maintenance?
Ard Van Leeuwen,
Dufferin-Caledon Federal Green Party candidate
Mathew Strader’s article on “Municipal Growth” in this week's Caledon Enterprise makes for interesting reading.
One of the subjects raised in the article was the request for additional levies or fees per tonne from the aggregate industry to give the municipality more cash flow. Supposedly, this additional cash flow will be used to fix the infrastructure damaged by the massive trucks hauling the aggregate resources from the midst of our communities.
There was one very telling comment made by our Mayor, who is the Chair of the group “Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario” (TAPMO). She said, “It was the first time mayors, industry members and provincial representatives had sat down together to try to figure it out.”
Nice cozy group!
Where is the voice of the citizens’ groups? You know, the ones who are directly impacted by the pits and quarries. The people who live next to the blasting and the digging? The people who live on the haul routes and have to hear the trucks and breathe the fumes on a daily basis? The homeowners who have their property investment decimated due to these mining operations?
Remember them? They’re called “tax payers” or maybe “voters.”
Do you think someone from NDACT, who just fought hard against the Mega quarry should be invited to the TAPMO party?
Or maybe the folks from CCC, who became very familiar with the issues while engaged in a costly fight over the Rockfort quarry?
How about participation by the group Gravel Watch, one of the most well established, respected and knowledgeable aggregate organizations in Ontario?
How arrogant of our elected officials to shut out our voices, but welcome those of the Aggregate industry. Can you say ‘one-sided’?
Will the mayors get their increase in fees - more money in their jeans at the end of the day? I think the answer is likely a resounding “yes.'
But what will the industry ask in return? Will this mean easier approvals for the disruptive digging and blasting?
Moreen Miller who sits in on the “TAPMO” meetings as an advisor, is the President of the Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA) and is also the President of an Ontario recycling group.
Do you think maybe she wants to open up our mining operations (pits and quarries) to include the industrial operations of recycling? Hmmm … what could possibly be wrong with allowing old contaminated asphalt to leach into the ground a few feet above our water table?
Or maybe instead of rehabilitating our decommissioned pits and quarries, there will be a bargain on the table to turn them into landfill sites instead! I'm sure our mayor is thinking “CHA-CHING! More truck levies!”
But … what do the people of Caledon want? Maybe our bureaucrats should start thinking outside of the ‘closed-between-elections’ box, and ask the citizens who are actually impacted by these types of decisions!
The citizens of Caledon and other aggregate-producing neighbourhoods have been subsidizing the aggregate industry long enough. It is only fair that the levies are increased, with no strings attached, to repair the damage gravel trucks do to our roads.
It is only fair that property taxes on aggregate land be increased to truly reflect the value of their resource.
It is about time homeowners were compensated for the devaluation of their homes by a mining operation that will make millions during the pit or quarry's life expectancy.
It's time the financial burden of living next to pits and quarries was properly shared by the end user of the product from these mining operations and by those profiting from the enterprise.
As far as what is done with any additional town revenues, do we really need more grandiose, expensive and ego-boosting schemes like the Pan-Am games?
... D. M., Caledon resident
As published in the Orangeville Banner ...
We owe them our gratitude for quarry battle
As we celebrate Melancthon’s jubilation at the good news that the mega quarry is cancelled, I hope all of Ontario will extend their thanks to the farmers who planted the seeds that brought public awareness to this issue.
If you ever wondered where the expression, “the salt of the earth” came from ... visit Redickville.
On the fertile Honeywood silt loam fields that, until last week, were proposed for slaughter, you will find a handful of gentle, unassuming farm families, and their country loving neighbours. Quiet men and women, who stepped far beyond their comfort zones to protect Ontario’s greatest gifts — farmland and water.
They sounded the alarm when no one would listen. They lit the flares when they were told it was a “done deal.” This victory was not won by politicians or government, heck, for a long time it wasn’t even supported by them. This battle was won with hope, and heart, and a relentless voice that would not be stilled. A voice that repeated time and again, “This is wrong and we will stop it.”
And, it all began with a handful of locals six years ago; Ralph and Mary Lynne Armstrong, Dale and Carol Rutledge, the Vander Zaags, the Blacks, the Wallaces, the Cosacks, the Levers ... and they told two people and they told two people.
They formed the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce; local son and engineer Garry Hunter prepared an undisputable technical case for provincial officials; they organized meetings and events that caught the attention of the media; and last year the social justice group, Avaaz, collected 100,000 signatures on a petition to “Stop the Quarry.”
They lost friends and sleep, money and time, but they spoke the truth, and they rallied a township, a county and a province, to beat a corporation financed by one of the most successful hedge funds in the world. They saved the Headwaters.
These folks have reminded us of something incredible: each of us truly does have the power to make a difference. The Highland Companies still owns thousands of acres of Melancthon land, and the coveted limestone that perfects the soil, lies beneath it; we are faced with more mega turbines and threatened by power lines; the county is considering a gasification plant; and Dundalk is crying foul over human waste.
Keep your voices raised.
.... M. W., Melancthon
The following letter was submitted to the Caledon Enterprise for publication and was then submitted to us ...
January 26, 2013. Dear Editor;
A recent letter to you from Moreen Miller of ‘Aggregate Recycling Ontario’ has seriously misinterpreted the article “Is Recycling Always a Good Thing?” by Matthew Strader, and has misrepresented the views of PitSense. We believe Ms. Miller would not wish her credibility, nor that of the various organizations to which she belongs, to suffer from such errors. Nor would you want your readers to be misinformed. To be very clear, PitSense is not “opposing recycling” as she suggests. In fact, as Matthew’s article made quite clear, PitSense is emphatically in favour of aggregate recycling because, as Ms. Miller correctly states, it is an excellent way “to reduce the need for more primary operations”. And PitSense’s statistical research shows that “more primary operations” (i.e. new pits and quarries) are simply not needed. Increased recycling will certainly serve to lessen the need even further.
But the answer to the question posed in the November article is not so “simple”. Recycling is not ‘always’ a good thing. For example if a recycling operation poses serious risk to the environment, or damages human health, or fails a cost/benefit analysis, then it needs re-thinking.
Ms. Miller’s assertions are understandable when we realize where she is ‘coming from’. She is a very effective lobbyist for the Aggregate Industry. She is a key player in a number of organizations, including the recently established Aggregate Recycling Ontario (ARO), and the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA). Prior to joining the OSSGA, she was Vice President, Land, Aggregates and Concrete Division for Lafarge, the world’s largest construction materials producer. She is also part of TAPMO (Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities in Ontario), and the fledgling Cornerstone Standards Council (CSC).
I know PitSense is in total agreement with Ms. Miller and ARO when she points out that “many municipalities’ specifications do not allow recycled aggregates to be used in construction projects. Processed properly, these aggregates meet all performance requirements and provide a suitable alternative to primary aggregates”.
The key phrase here is “processed properly”.
It is clear from Matthew’s article that PitSense is simply questioning whether existing pits and quarries, which are designated as an ‘interim land use’, are the proper places for industrial recycling operations.
I invite Ms. Miller and your readers to visit the website – www.pitsense.ca - or contact PitSense directly at email@example.com to get more accurate information about what PitSense actually stands for.
... R.S. Caledon resident
Excerpts from a letter to ProtectCaledon.org ...
Open Letter to Caledon Property Owners from a prospective buyer - September 9th, 2012
Call the Brock Pit what it really is: Open Pit Mining
The following can be termed “what the threat of expansion/continuation of operation of “The Pit” means to prospective property buyers (like me)
One thing for sure – I have bought aggregates from Brock and if they continue operations unchecked I will no longer do so.
I am a potential home buyer looking at Caledon and am currently applying a “no-buy” black pencil to many high end properties located within 10 KM of the Brock Pit. I am continuing research to see if 10KM is too lenient a distance….maybe it should be 20KM????
Over reacting? Maybe OR maybe not…
WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE THAT ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION of groundwater has been built into any expansion or continuation of operations at The Brock Pit It is possible that a 10 KM zone in a concentric circle around the pit won’t be enough if the extraction process is allowed to expand and proceeds without “checks and balances”. If extraction proceeds without caution for environmental impact, property values should continue to drop in concentric circles with greater drops as one gets closer to the Pit – A property we were interested in is 1.5 KM from the Pit. We thought it was attractively priced. Now we think we know why and our new conclusion is the risk outweighs the reward of a lowered purchase price.
See the original letter HERE
We are very pleased to welcome a 'Guest Columnist' to our website. Doug Karrow, like most of us, is a relative newcomer to the aggregate game but has some very thoughtful observations. We hope you enjoy his insights. The introduction is reproduced below left and to the immediate left is Part 1 of the series.
Part 2 and 3 are linked to below ...
Guest Columnist Doug Karrow
Part II:The Experience of Living
Beside a Gravel Pit
In this second installment of the three-part column, I wish to describe the experience of living and working beside a gravel pit. Descriptions of our lived-experiences center on the general operation of the gravel pit and our interactions with the applicant, property owner, and various pieces of legislation over several years … see full article HERE
Part III: What We Can Learn From Other Communities?
In Part III, the last installment of this column I want to explore what we can learn from other communities trying to shape public policy in a way that creates a more balanced consultation process resulting in a more sustainable approach to a necessary industry within our province. Prior to considering these communities some important context is necessary. ... see full article HERE
I must commend PitSense for taking the initiative and responsibility to protect residents in the area from the release of even more pollutants to the air quality in Caledon should this proposed pit site be re-zoned and licensed for aggregate extraction and its related polluting activities. The real possibility of very serious health impacts from degraded air quality must be a major consideration by the Province of Ontario, the OMB, the Town of Caledon and Peel Region as well as the proponent of the proposed pit and the consultants hired by the proponent.
All the best to you and members of PitSense in 2014!
... H. P. Guelph, Ontario
I commend all of you for taking on the monumental matter of "recycling"of waste aggregate materials. Your work in trying to define this industrial operation appropriately and to establish industry standards is so necessary. There is such a push at this time to legitimize the importation of waste materials into licensed pits and quarries for storage, reprocessing and shipping, etc.
PitSense and its allies are doing what needs to be done in the public interest and for the protection of the natural environment and public health and safety! Teamwork is so important and will result in getting the job done to your satisfaction!
... H.P. Guelph, Ontario
The "What's New" webpage is excellent! It shows a visual and colourful snapshot of major events over a substantial period of time, somewhat of an historical record of what is happening in communities across Ontario in respect to the establishment, licensing and operation of pits and quarries and the adverse effects on residents. PitSense is truly becoming a major provincial voice in the information provided on its website and the dedicated and committed presence and efforts of its members in addressing aggregate matters in an effective and meaningful manner. We have all benefited from your work to date and we can expect that necessary change is coming as to how the Province and municipalities address public concerns about the aggregate industry and the blight of the "Domino Effect" of open pit mining in our communities.
...H.P. Guelph, Ontario
Letters to the Editor Orangeville Citizen July 30, 2014
Re: Preferential treatment of Aggregate Industry.
Residents of Ontario continue to raise concerns about the special treatment given to the aggregate industry, yet these concerns are not being addressed in government policy decisions. The recent review of the Aggregate Resources Act did not adequately recognize the concerns raised by the public and impacted local communities.
The special, preferential treatment of the aggregate industry needs to stop. Key pieces of environmental protection legislation include an “exception: clause for the aggregate industry. Big business interests should not take priority over the health, safety and quality of life of rural Ontarians, the environment and prime farmland.
Aggregate producers enjoy exemptions from requirements that apply to other types of development, including exemptions from environmental assessments, exemptions from Class III industrial zoning, promotion of “recycling” of industrial waste on rural extraction sites and reduced setbacks from adjacent residential properties.
The processing of construction demolition waste should not be disguised as “recycling.”
It is unacceptable that a clause mandating the siting of “recycling facilities” into pits and quarries was added into the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement after the public consultation period had concluded.
“Recycling” facilities, where construction and demolition waste occurs, should be located in lands zoned for industrial operations.
They should not be located without appropriate setbacks from other sensitive land uses, including rural homes, schools and open aquifers.
This provincial election has brought out all parties seeking support from rural Ontario. I am calling on all candidates and all parties to stop this preferential treatment of the aggregate industry and to announce their support for a fair, impartial review of aggregate policy if they are elected.
E. D. Alton See original article HERE
May 2, 2016
You are remarkable and invaluable!
I think it is because Gravel operations don't expect anyone to be as well informed and persistent as you, that they just decide to ride roughshod over the landscape and 'to hell with the peons'. They know that elected officials aren't necessarily well educated people or decisive people and that they are in some ways crippled by their own rules of council and municipal bureaucracy .
Thank you . B.S.J. Caledon, Ontario