Residents and researchers in Ontario’s Tiny Township are fighting the expansion of gravel pit operations they say could compromise the most pristine water ever tested before science can explain exactly how it exists.
While Tiny Township’s council had initially resolved to fight the idea of granting new quarry and water taking permits, the council reversed course in May, leaving local environmental protection groups as the primary voices of opposition.
The unique water from the Alliston Aquifer Complex comes through artesian flows and springs with nearly imperceptible concentrations of contaminants such as chloride, nitrate, phosphate and various other trace elements. A water kiosk in Elmvale routinely draws people from all over the province.
Council had appeared to suggest they would wait for the findings of leading Canadian hydrogeologist John Cherry, who hopes to further study the water phenomenon, before it considered issuing new licences or the expansion of Teedon Pit off Darby Road. in Waverley for aggregate washing. But, to the surprise of many in the area, Tiny Township’s council voted behind closed doors to stand down and settle, having noted in a motion that, “all outstanding technical issues have been satisfactorily addressed […].”
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With the hope of securing funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Cherry would be joined by William Shotyk, the Bocock Chair for Agriculture and the Environment at the University of Alberta, and geologist Michael Powell, also of the University of Alberta, for a five-year, multi-million dollar study of the water in the area of Elmvale, Ontario.
“In the interests of transparency, if an aggregate company has data that shows there’s no possible way for their industry to impact the water – if they have such data, please show us the data and show that data not only to us, but to all the other stakeholders, including the landowners in the area,” Powell told council in the spring.
Some local residents reported noticing silt in their well water around 2009 when local aggregate operations began taking larger amounts of local water to wash their gravel to remove fine soil particles. In some cases, the Ontario government responded to official complaints by noting that water well impacts were not “due to the water takings associated with the permit for Teedon Pit,” as “it is not possible for silt to flow through a silt, sand, and gravel aquifer as a silt plume […].”
Still fighting against the quarries are The Friends of the Waverly Uplands, the Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations, The Council of Canadians, AWARE Simcoe, the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, and local First Nations.
Some of these groups were involved in previous fights, as in 2009, when a 20-hectare landfill was scrapped after widespread public opposition.