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2007 Annual Report

Message from Chair - Water - Cool, clean and clear - for now - Environment - Wetlands and Woodlands (a.k.a. "Marshes and Forests") - Haul Route - Truck Traffic - Health - Protecting the Water We Drink and The Air We Breathe - Concluding Comments - Financials - Volunteer Committee - Public Activity Report - References

Health - Protecting the Water We Drink and The Air We Breathe

I have never in my career seen Section 11 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act invoked. The guys at Public Health are very cautious - no cowboys there. They have to be very worried.

Last year I joined the Track Team. That was huge for me. That's because I used to grab my rescue inhaler every day. Coach says it's the combination of clean country air and a training schedule. I agree. My home "track" is a circuit of streets in Carlisle. I run it every day. When I think about the quarry I worry. Not about being hit by a truck, or anything like that because I don't think they would bring trucks into the subdivision, but I worry about the air. If it starts to fill up with quarry dust, and diesel exhaust my track career will nose dive. I'll end up back on my rescue medication, and that would really suck.

My 11 year old son wrote out his Christmas list for Santa this year and at the end in big letters, with an exclamation mark, and a box around the words he wrote Quarry Stopped! He is only 11 and he worries about the quarry, about what it will do to water for our livestock, and crops, and his freedom to ride his bicycles with big trucks on the road. Constant worry is not healthy for any family, nor for a community.

Determinants of health are more than genetics, education, employment, and individual health practices. They include the large issues that we as individuals cannot control, but that we as communities can influence like the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the amount of worry to which we subject our children.

That's why we were relieved when the Hamilton Public Health Department issued a notice to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment invoking Section 11 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. It's "the first one issued in Ontario for a water taking permit application from an existing or proposed quarry".15 The notice contains warning for the potential to cause a public health concern "in the form of groundwater shortages or groundwater contamination".16 By declaring concern, the Public Health Department has effectively put the question of the permit clearly into the hands of the provincial government.

It leaves us wondering just what the provincial government could be thinking. A pipeline to Lake Ontario is not allowed under the Greenbelt Plan unless the medical officer of health has determined there is a public health concern, or our water supply is inadequate to support our population.17 Neither option is acceptable. The long term solution to such system failure is to extend the lake-based pipeline from Waterdown. But that could take decades to do environmental assessments, design and construction. And who would pay? In the meantime we would be living with an untenable situation.

Water, and its safety, has been the primary focus in our opposition to the proposed quarry. But the reality is that air quality would be affected through quarry dust, road dust, and diesel particulate to name a few offenders. This is the same air that would be inhaled by babies in carriages, children running at soccer games, and livestock browsing in the fields. Imagine contaminants covering crops, coating our windows, blanketing our garden furniture, and generally eroding the quality of life we chose to have by living here.

A visit to the web-site for the Public Health Agency of Canada confirms that the "prevalence of childhood asthma, a respiratory disease that is highly sensitive to airborne contaminants, has increased sharply over the last two decades, especially among the age group 0 to 5."18 It also reveals that "risk from small particles such as dust and carbon particles that are by-products of burning fuel may be even greater than the risks from pollutants such as ozone" for respiratory illness.19

Any parent who has watched a child struggle to breathe is not interested in hearing a quarry operator make promises to monitor the air quality. Our children are the monitors of air quality - the dosage effect of air pollutants is greater for them than for us. In effect they are our canaries in the coal mines.

The risks to health are known when water is contaminated, air is polluted, and crossing the road is no longer safe. The risks to the environment are known when wetlands are de-watered, and stream chemistry and temperature altered. What is not well documented are the risks to a community's social health when it is under siege by an untenable proposal. It takes an 11 year old boy's letter to Santa asking him to please Stop the Quarry to illustrate the stress and uncertainty in our homes. And that's wrong.

Ontario's Environmental Commissioner has got it right. There needs to be a different path for development applications that raise red flags at the outset.


Together We Will Succeed!