Perspectives Editor Harvey Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two page coverage of aggregates
Listed here is the first part in the coverage
Growing harvest of sand, gravel and stone from area pits fuels environmental concerns
By Bob Burtt, Record Staff
Ric Holt sits on the front porch of his farmhouse in Pilkington Township near Elora, There’s a large farm pond, a meandering stream to the front and a sprawling wetland on the property.
A blue heron lands and then takes off. A king fisher hovers above waiting to dive for food and a red-headed woodpecker checks his balance no a bird feeder.
On this day, the gravel pit that Holt can see from his porch is quiet. It is an idyllic setting.
But the University of Waterloo computer sciences professor knows what it is like to lay awake on summer nights because the grinding noises from the nearby pit makes sleep impossible.
All that separates Holt’s 10-acre country paradise from the pit is a wetland that eventually will be surrounded by the mining operations.
“We had a liturgy of problems with gravel pits. You couldn’t sleep at night. The sound was unbearable and they went all night. No one is delighted about huge trucks rumbling down beautiful country roads.”
The operation near Holt’s place is part of what is known as the Bowman Pit complex. As Holt became immersed in the fight against the pit, he became convinced that the deck was stacked against him and anyone else who picks a fight with the gravel industry.
“The provincial policy statement and all kinds of other things are set up to expedite the exploitation of gravel, “ says Holt. It is a practice he describes as raping the hills to pave the fields.
“They all pay lip service to protecting the environment, but when you look at the rules, they seem to say if there is aggregate there, go and get it.”
Holt soon realized that easily accessible information was scarce and help even more scarce.
“I got the feeling that I was playing a game of poker and they were saying, ‘We’ll tell the rules when the game is over.’ There are rules and there is information but it isn’t easily accessible.”
Holt set up a website to help others who found themselves facing the same problems and asking the same questions he did. Now, he receives calls for help from far and near.
Part of the problem, says Holt, is that during the mid-90s, the Harris government gutted the Ministry of Natural Resources and essentially decided the industry should be self-policing.
“The system is complaint-driven but the system doesn’t work. I can’t go on the property to look at what is happening so the complaint system is being led by the blind.
“In 1990 there were more than 6,000 pits in Ontario that weren’t rehabilitated,” says Holt.
And instead of pushing for more rehabilitation, the province moved to abolish a rehabilitation fund that companies paid into. The province got out of the rehabilitation business, turned the money and the responsibility for rehabilitation over to the industry.
But that says Holt, is like having the fox in charge of the hen house, a system he says won’t work.
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