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2006 Annual Report

Message from Chair - Environmental Defence - The Proponent - The Application - The Case - Natural Environment - Transportation - Community - Hydrogeology - Financials - Public Activity Report - References - Volunteer Committee


The initial documentation filed with the quarry application did not stand up to scrutiny from our Community experts nor the city's peer review team. Specifically,

  1. The prediction of limited water table drawdown was not felt to be credible.
  2. The claims of no impact to Carlisle Municipal Wells could not be justified.
  3. Existing rural residential wells, within 1200 metres of the site, could indeed be at significant risk of being dewatered by quarry operations.
  4. It was determined that there could be a very real potential for lowering of water levels and draining of the Provincially Significant Wetlands and local streams.5

As a result, more detailed studies were requested. By now, we would have expected the requested revisions to be complete, but they have not yet been submitted. St Marys Cement CBM, however, did file an application with the province for a Permit To Take Water (PTTW) in the fall of 2006 with the intent of testing the theoretical Groundwater Recirculation System (GRS). This application too has many aspects that raise concerns - the foremost being that the scale of the test is huge. It proposed to extract almost 4 times the quantity of water permitted to be taken by the Carlisle municipal system. There is substantial work to be done to understand the underlying aquifer and watershed and any implications for source water protection. This outstanding work from St Marys should be completed before a test evaluating a proposed mitigating system is undertaken. Even then, the test should be structured to eliminate the potential risks to our existing groundwater uses.

Another concern is the fact that the GRS is still unproven technology with no examples of a precedent anywhere in the world. Permitting a pilot test of the scale that is being proposed without understanding the implications for the watershed is equivalent to using our Communities as a laboratory experiment, something no Research Ethics Committee would approve.

Our letter to the Ministry of the Environment objected to the premature nature of this application. We identified the province s obligations under the Ontario Clean Water Act, 2006. Its purpose is to protect existing and future sources of drinking water. It sets above all else, the concept of prevention as the first principle in the safeguarding of drinking water for our Communities and for our health6. We are pleased with the strength of the legislation.

"Keeping source water free of contamination is smarter, safer and more effective than cleaning up problems after the fact,"
-Environment Minister Laurel Broten8

Our letter also noted considerations that arise from the Greenbelt Plan. Specifically, expansions to Great Lake or Lake Simcoe based water and sewage services are not permitted for those settlements where they do not currently exist. This restriction applies to our Communities. That means only if there is a failure of our groundwater system or a public health risk could the installation of a water supply be even considered from Lake Ontario to our Communities7. Given the time required for the municipality to undertake a Class Environmental Assessment for a water/sewer project, and to have it conform to the Greenbelt Plan Infrastructure Polices, it would be years before service could be restored in a meaningful way. Any hopes that a pipeline would solve water problems have to be filtered by two realities. The first is that public health would have to have been risked. We do not think a privately owned commercial quarry is worth the risk of a Walkerton scale crisis. The second is that we would all have cisterns on our lawns or some other form of temporary water supply for years while a permanent solution is implemented. That reality flies in the face of assertions from St Marys that quarries do not hurt real estate values.

We were pleased with the city of Hamilton's comments about the PTTW. It cited many of the same concerns for well and wellhead protection.

We continue to have faith in the integrity of the process, and the protections associated with the Ontario Clean Water Act, 2006 and the Greenbelt Act, 2005. They should lead to the right decision being made.

Click to view St Marys Cement (CBM)'s theoretical Groundwater Recirculation System (GRS) system.


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