Who’s in charge of fill operations in exhausted quarries?
Pellegrini supports motion out of Scugog
King Sentinel January 26 2011
Mayor Steve Pellegrini has attended his first meeting of the Greater Toronto Countryside Mayor’s Alliance (GTCMA), and he said he came away with the good impression of the group.
“Good things can come of it,” he said.
GTCMA was formed in 2004 and represents more than 640,000 residents living in the northern communities of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) from Milton to Clarington.
It was formed to monitor federal and provincial initiatives and to provide research and analysis. GTCMA strives to enhance local government in the rural communities within the GTA.
With 14 mayors and senior municipal staffers together in one body, Pellegrini said GTCMA provides a good avenue to advocate. He added he was discouraged such a vehicle wasn’t explored to fight the peaker plant slated for the Holland Marsh.
The meeting, which was held Jan. 14 in Caledon, saw Caledon Mayor Marolyn Morrison acclaimed to another term as chair, and Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette was acclaimed vicechair.
GTCMA also received a presentation recently from Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier about an increasingly troubling dilemma facing aggregate producing municipalities.
Some new owners of former quarries are claiming depleted sites are “aerodromes” thereby using federal aviation legislation to bypass municipal oversight of commercial fill operations.
“The issue came before our council last summer,” Mercier said.
“A fill permit was applied for and issued by the Township, although we weren’t told the pit was being used as an aerodrome.”
When concerns were raised over the nature of the fill being dumped in the abandoned pit, Township staff was told local bylaws didn’t apply, since federal aviation regulations superseded them.
“We recognize that fill is a reality of life,” Mercier commented.
“But the Township has an obligation to oversee these fill operations to ensure the safety and quality of life of our residents is not put at risk.”
GTCMA mayors expect fill operations to increase as the provincial economy begins to ramp up and residents of aggregate-producing municipalities are becoming increasingly concerned. The source of drinking water for many rural areas is ground water and commercial fill is being dumped in pits that have been quarried below the water table.
“Without access and the authority to monitor these operations, local officials can’t be sure what the commercial fill contains,” said Bonnette. “There are jurisdictional issues here and we must get clear-cut direction from our federal partners to protect the health of our communities.”
The Township of Scugog has applied for an injunction to stop what they perceive as the “unlawful” dumping of commercial fill until such time as the federal government clarifies who has the authority to regulate the operations. Mayors Mercier and Bonnette put forward a resolution to GTCMA mayors insisting provincial and federal authorities spell out exactly who has jurisdiction with respect to fill operations in exhausted quarries, and those in attendance unanimously supported the motion.
“We all jointly agreed to that,” Pellegrini commented.