by JOE CALLAHAN
Members of an eastern Ontario farming community are growing concerned that a quarry proposal will create road hazards for farm equipment and threaten water supply to local wells.
Residents in Tyendinaga Township, east of Belleville, have issued a formal objection to the proposal to add a new quarry beside the existing Long Quarry on Melrose Road.
Organizer and long-time Tyendinaga resident Sue Munroe says she has over a thousand names on a list of concerned citizens and the group has established a website called Citizens Against Melrose Quarry. The website lists the group’s concerns under five broad topics; increased traffic, the impact on water in the wells of local residents, the long-term effects of dust on crops and livestock, noise and vibration, and other environmental impacts.
Munroe says there are five dairy farms within three kilometers of the quarry and it’s dangerous for farm equipment to use the road with the volume of truck traffic. She also cited a problem with a quarry north of Kingston where a “pop-up” (where the quarry floor buckles) occurred and wells were shut down for a three-kilometer radius.
“We’re doing a comparison here, because what happened there was the city of Kingston had to pipe water out. With farms here there’s no way that anyone could afford to pipe water,” says Munroe. “Essentially you’re shutting down a farming community.”
John McFarlane, a beef farmer on Melrose Road says his main concern is his ongoing ability to provide water for his one hundred head of cattle.
“I can’t afford to buy water for that many cows if I somehow lose my water,” says McFarlane. “What would it cost me if I had to drill a well or pipe it from a different spot if that vein somehow gets screwed up?”
McFarlane also expressed concern for the limestone dust from the quarry and its impact on the pH level of his soil.
“With the limestone dust blowing over the fields year after year, it has the pH levels up,” says MacFarlane. “We have to put a special additive in, mixed with the fertilizer, to help bring that pH level of the soil down.”
The proposed new site, to be known as the Melrose Quarry, is to be roughly 25-hectares in size and needs to be licensed separately from the existing quarry.
Owner Charlie Demill, who has managed the existing quarry for roughly 35 years, says the additional quarry is being sought because of diminishing supply of aggregate at the Long quarry. The existing quarry is licensed for a maximum 500,000 tonnes per year.
Members of the community have expressed concern that the volume of aggregate being removed will increase but Demill says he does not plan to remove more than 500,000 tonnes annually from both quarries once the proposed one is in use.
“Our total license (for the existing quarry) is for 500,000 tonnes and we have only made that one year since the quarry opened,” says Demill. “We’re not licensed for twice the volume, we’re licensed for exactly the same volume. They (community members who are objecting to the expansion) can’t seem to get that through their heads.”
Demill also says traffic is not going to increase and they have tested for the impact on water supply and quality. He estimates the cost of the ongoing tests and reports is “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” and notes that for every tonne of material excavated his company pays a levy of 11 cents. Of those 11 cents, the township gets six cents.
“All of these people who have been complaining have never had a problem,” says Demill.
Steve Kilby, Ministry of Natural Resources aggregates technical specialist, confirmed in an email that C. H. Demill Holdings Inc. has applied for a new separate license with a maximum tonnage of 500,000 per year.
Provincial policy documents he supplied note that a separate license application is mandatory for expansion of an existing quarry.
If issued, however, the two licences would give the company permission to remove one million tonnes of material from the quarries annually, notes Jolanta Kowalsky, MNR spokesperson, by phone. “But of that total only 500,000 tonnes could be produced at any one quarry,” she says.
Steve Mercer, Tyendinaga’s CAO, said in an email he has received an application for re-zoning the property at the site of the proposed new quarry and the studies completed for Demill are being peer reviewed by a third party at a cost of $15,000.00. Once the review is completed, a public meeting will be held and township council will make a decision regarding the re-zoning.
Meanwhile, Sue Munroe will host an information session in Alumni Hall at nearby Loyalist College on Thursday Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. During the session, Carl Cosack of Food and Water First will discuss how his organization stopped the expansion of the Melancthon Quarry in Dufferin County. BF