Hit with fewer gravel pits than North Dumfries, Woolwich is nonetheless joining its fellow rural township’s call for a moratorium on new operations and a comprehensive review of provincial policies related to aggregate extraction.
North Dumfries’ March 1 resolution won the backing of Woolwich councillors meeting Monday night.
In calling for a moratorium, North Dumfries council noted applications for new and expanded gravel pits continue without any indication if additional supply is needed, adding pits and quarries have a negative impact on the environment as well as negative social impacts on host communities in terms of noise, air pollution, and truck traffic.
The motion also calls for local municipalities to have a greater say in the process.
The arguments resonated with Woolwich councillors, who pointed to many of the same issues at play in the township.
“If you go over there into North Dumfries, they have so many gravel pits it’s just decimating the land over there with how many gravel pits they have, and there just seems to be no end in sight,” said Coun. Patrick Merlihan.
“Small municipalities like ours, we supply all the gravel for Waterloo, Kitchener … and we get the headaches that go with it, so we’d like the support of those cities as well to recognize the inconvenience and other issues associated with gravel pits, and make this an issue worth talking about in the election coming up.”
Mayor Sandy Shantz stressed the ecological issues involved with gravel pit operations.
“In determining the need for new aggregate, looking at a below-water table [applications] to reflect current groundwater sciences, I think that’s really important,” she said. “The thing I’ve been talking about for seven years is the cumulative impacts of the aggregate operations in terms of off-site impacts to environmental systems and groundwater regime and contribution to area water courses and wetlands,” she said.
Although the province is unlikely to put new gravel pits on pause, there is a case to be made for a policy review, said director of development services Deanne Friess.
“I don’t think that the province is in a position to invoke a moratorium, but I think that putting a request in to review the legislation makes sense. Eventually they will need to review the legislation – we’re requesting that that happens a little bit earlier, and having an opportunity to comment on their revisions and on the things that are specific to the township would make sense,” she told councillors.
“Although the regulations say where possible mineral aggregate extraction should be as close to the markets as possible, it doesn’t have a requirement for a demonstrated need of mineral aggregate resources or supply demand analysis to find out how much is actually needed to support those local markets, so it makes sense that when the province opens up the legislation for review that the township would participate and comment on that legislation,” she added.
Going beyond the North Dumfries request, councillors also opted to request provisions for time limits on gravel pit operations, the so-called sunset clause that would put a closing date in place.
“I wonder if we could add for them to address or readdress the sunset clause; that one is really a problem as well, because we’ve got a pit in Bloomingdale that’s been non-active for years and then all of a sudden now they’re hauling a bunch of broken concrete there to make it look like it’s active again but they’re not hauling anything out of there. There’s no sunset clause so they can keep it going forever,” said Coun. Larry Shantz in suggesting the addition.