LETTER: Council shouldn’t OK pits without monitoring wells

It has been four long years but finally a decision precipitated by a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) hearing means that robust well testing will be undertaken over the next year to accurately establish the water elevation on the Greer and Sons aggregate pit site on Ridge Road.

This type of testing normally occurs over an extended period to measure the impact of topography and seasonal changes on the water table. The original measurement conducted by the applicant took place in December 2016 following a significant period of drought. Not the robust testing one expects to protect water. Water elevation testing ensures that the extraction of sand and gravel will not breech the water table, will not have an adverse impact on the local watershed, and will not endanger the wells of local residents

. If aggregate is too close to the water table, it must not be extracted as the process compromises water quality. Therefore, establishing the correct water elevation is critical.

The recent decision to require robust water elevation testing at the proposed site on Ridge Road is a significant win for water protection, but it should never have taken this long. Nor should Council have approved the Official Plan and Zoning amendments to enable an aggregate pit without ensuring that our water would be protected. It is not as if residents did not request this from as early as December 2017. In fact, we raised it 34 times – in meetings with the mayor, councillors, the planning department and at Council meetings. And rarely were we ever asked a question at any of these meetings nor was there any obvious effort to seriously consider what we were raising. We were repeatedly assured that there would be an independent peer review, that water issues were critical and would be considered carefully.

As it turned out, the two peer reviews identified the same concerns that we had raised about seasonal fluctuations and topography as they affect water elevation.

When citizens object to developments such as this, they are required to file Objection Letters with the Ministry of Natural Resources. In our case there was enough concern at MNR about the objections that they referred the matter to LPAT. This meant that local residents had to retain experts such as a lawyer, a hydrogeologist, and a municipal planner. All at our own expense, and at enormous personal cost. You really are forced to ask yourself how all this could have happened when our straightforward request to accurately establish water elevation on the site was identified four years ago. A common practice, that if implemented, could have prevented the need for an appeal in the first place.

In the end, just prior to the start of the LPAT hearing on October 5, 2021, the applicant offered to install well monitors. This offer was accepted, because the water elevation on the site will finally be measured in accordance with acceptable practices, based on science. And the monitoring wells will be permanent. This appeal should be precedent setting. Applicants, planning staff and County Council should never again develop or approve an aggregate pit without this type of robust testing to protect our water.

And Council must address the cumulative impact of aggregate pits along Ridge Road as the watershed cannot withstand more aggregate extraction.

Maureen Adams

Dan Kelly

Picton