Hey everyone, this here is a shout out to all the students in undergrad public policy programs. You should go to your city's council meetings. Practically no one shows up, so you're guaranteed to get a good seat. Also, it is not as boring as it sounds. The discussion that goes on is directly relevant to the courses you are studying, and it beats the hell out of reading a textbook.
Last night at Guelph's city council meeting, there was a presentation about the Guelph Dolime Quarry. I feel this is significant to bring up, aside from the striking environmental concern, because of the recent discussion of the Melancthon Quarry in Honeywood, Ontario
Guelph's Dolime Quarry has sat for the past several years departed of any mining activity. Recently, it became economically viable to use deeper methods of mining to extract aggregate from beneath a protective layer of the hard rock lining the bottom of the quarry. The hard rock, otherwise known as the aquitard, lies above the underground aquifer and prevents its contamination from surface waters.
The governance of aggregate extraction permits in Ontario is entirely out of date, and the dilemma faced by Guelph reflects that. Dolime has put forward a proposal that seeks to expand the scope of the current Dolime quarry and mine for aggregate at continually deeper levels. Dolime seeks to excavate beneath the aquitard, and refill any created hollow space with back fill. Last night at council, I think the date referenced for the current legislation regarding aggravate removal was sometime in the 1980's, and Wellington Water Watchers lists The Water Resources Act of 1990 as lacking safeguards as well. There is no current protection in legislation that prevents a pit operator from piercing through the aquitard.
Currently, the city is going back and forth between the Ministry of Natural Resources, Dolime, and environmental consultants to determine the risk and consequences of deepening the Dolime quarry into the aquifer.
When a huge hole is dug, not in terms of credit card debt, the groundwater can come into contact with contaminated surface water. As a result our tap water needs extra purification after it is pumped out of the ground and before it goes down our throats. City staff indicated 8 wells, or 25% of Guelph's water supply could be affected by pit expansion below the aquitard. Costs associated with retrofitting the wells to handle a new load of contaminants are estimated around 2-3 million per well. This does not take into account the time Guelph would spend with a greatly diminished water supply nor the public unrest surrounding possible contaminated drinking water. But maybe the aggregate beneath the aquitard is made of solid gold and every Guelph citizen will receive a 100oz gold bar. That would be wicked.