Toronto, Ontario – Environmental Defence is joining forces with Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (“PERL”) to protect the Niagara Escarpment in Burlington, Ontario which is under threat from a massive limestone quarry proposal. Nelson Aggregate is proposing a new quarry situated in the heart of Mount Nemo, a significant landform on the Niagara Escarpment and in Ontario’s Greenbelt.
The Board of Directors of the national environmental group voted to support the Burlington group’s efforts to oppose the quarry license application.
“This quarry proposal is a serious threat to the Niagara Escarpment and the area’s groundwater. We are concerned that the application is being pushed through and that short-term economic interests could win out over science,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “It’s a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and the cornerstone of Ontario’s Greenbelt.”
PERL, based in Burlington, has thousands of supporters who believe strongly in protecting the Niagara Escarpment. The group is a member of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 environmental, health and community groups dedicated to protecting Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. PERL and its experts have been reviewing the application for a below-water table quarry by Nelson Aggregate which seeks to re-zone 82 hectares (200 acres) of land across the road from its existing quarry site from Escarpment Rural to Mineral Extraction.
“The quarry application is mired in technical difficulties because the applicant chose a very sensitive area, one that is ultimately not suitable for quarry development,” said PERL co-founder Sarah Harmer. “After considerable review, our resolve is strong that we oppose this proposal. Gaining national recognition from Environmental Defence is very important to us. It will help us get the message out there to the public, especially during the current provincial by-election in Burlington.”
The proposed quarry was a topic of much discussion at the all-candidates’ meeting on the environment in Burlington last Tuesday evening, leading up to the provincial by-election on February 8, 2007. The public expressed concern and asked candidates to commit to protecting Mount Nemo.
A government-led Joint Agency Review Team is waiting for the results of a wetland evaluation review from the Ministry of Natural Resources. These results will determine if the provincially significant wetlands on and around the proposed extraction area, which were identified in the 2006 evaluation, will be confirmed and properly protected. Numerous species of fish and significant habitat of the threatened Jefferson Salamander were discovered within these connected wetlands, further underscoring the need for protection.
Mount Nemo is a unique geological feature. As a plateau, it sits above the landscape and relies solely on rainwater to supply its aquifer. It is a source water recharge area with over 20 tributaries originating on top of it and along its slopes. Headwaters of the Grindstone Creek originate on Mount Nemo as do headwaters of Bronte Creek.
The area is also known for its rare Karst geology, rock which has been worn down by water over millions of years and has subsurface drainage channels, caves, fissures and voids. This type of geology makes it difficult, if not impossible, to model and predict water flow and the effects of below-water-table extraction. Water experts believe that existing water usage on Mount Nemo, especially the 600-acre quarry, which has been operating since the 1950’s, is stressing local groundwater and surface water flow systems beyond sustainable levels and that further quarrying would likely put the system into collapse.
“Ontario has sheltered aggregate producers from modern land use protection regulations for too long,” said David Donnelly, legal counsel for Environmental Defence. “There is widespread public support for the protection of the Niagara Escarpment and moving aggregate quarries to less sensitive areas. The Greenbelt strictly prohibits urban sprawl from destroying significant environmental features, why the exception for aggregates?”
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For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
David Donnelly, Gilbert’s LLP, (416) 703-3236; (416) 722-0220 (cell)
Sarah Harmer, PERL, firstname.lastname@example.org