Water Walk protest being held this weekend; company says it has all the proper licences
By Cheryl Browne Barrie Examiner
TINY TWP. – Peter Anderson wants to protect his water for the next generation.
After buying land in Waverley 11 years ago, Anderson discovered the underground Alliston Aquifer he draws water from is also being used by the nearby gravel pit.
“We feel we’re experiencing well interference from the pit,” said Anderson.
“It’s intermittent,” he said of his water quality. “Sometimes we get a brown sediment, sometimes it grey. I think it’s the clay. It’s god-awful to pour a glass of water.”
Anderson has had his water tested and said there is no E. coli, but he is worried it’s not as clear as it was when he bought the land.
So Anderson and his neighbours formed the Friends of Waverley Uplands and plan to join approximately 100 people in a Water Walk protest this weekend.
Anderson wants the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), as well as the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to perform a cumulative impact study on the effects of the aggregate business on local wells.
But Kevin Mitchell, director of property planning and approvals for Dufferin Aggregates, a division of CRH Canada Group, said they have all the proper licences and approvals from both ministries to perform the work at the pit.
Mitchell said CRH bought the existing land from K.J. Beamish in May 2017.
“So we started to operate at the site and we’re continuing to run the site under a licence that was already opened,” Mitchell said.
The licence to extract the aggregate – used to make concrete and asphalt products – was granted by the MNRF and the licence to take water from the site was issued by MOECC, he said.
That licence permits Dufferin to pull 1,635,840 litres of water per day for 210 days until it expires on April 30, 2018.
He said the company will apply to have that licence extended.
Dufferin is using approximately 200,000 to 300,000 litres per day and the licence was granted with the higher 1.6 million litres limit to ensure the area could handle a higher amount than required, he said.
He compares the process of washing the gravel from the pit to a smaller backyard project.
“It’s like picking up a stone in the garden and washing it off with the garden hose,” he said. “There are no chemicals used in the washing process.”
Two community meetings were held this past summer and the company understands there are concerns, he said.
Mitchell said Dufferin is in the process of setting up a community liaison committee to keep the public informed, as well as get their input, he said.
“When we send out the notification, I’m asking interested people to be one of the 10 people on the committee,” he said.
But the walkers aren’t convinced the committee will have any teeth.
“The community monitoring they are proposing won’t start until 2018,” said Vicki Monague of the Beausoleil First Nations. “By then, they’ll have applied for the licence and that’s too little too late.”
As a First Nation Keepers of the Water member, Monague was arrested and had an injunction placed against her presence near the gravel pit during the Site 41 conflict over the same aquifer in 2009.
“All charges were dropped and at the end of the day, we won,” she said. “We don’t want to start another Site 41 (protest); we want to resolve it.”
The Site 41 conflict came about when Simcoe County council granted approval to build a landfill site on the aquifer in 2007, although the battle stretched back many more years. Tiny Township residents, area cottagers and Indigenous people were also joined by activists Maude Barlow, David Suzuki and American Ralph Nader to speak against the planned dump site on what is considered to be a prime water source.
Monague said the water is under pre-Confederation jurisdictions of Treaty 5 and Treaty 16, of which Beausoleil First Nations are signatories.
“Under the Aggregates Act, First Nations are supposed to be consulted and accommodated,” she said. “Dufferin said it had First Nations approval, but that was with Six Nations, not Beausoleil. We were not consulted.”
The 40-kilometre Water Walk will begin at the Cedar Point Dock or Christian Island ferry dock on Saturday at 7:30 a.m., and will end at the Dufferin Aggregates pit on French’s Road at 5 p.m.
The walk will be followed by a potluck dinner at the Wyebridge Community Centre.