‘A high-profile site,’ quarry reps respond to public scrutiny

Information session held in Agassiz’s Agricultural Hall

Locals finally had a chance to ask questions and in some cases, express frustrations with a quarry application in the District of Kent. After months of silence from developers, consulting firm OTG Development Concepts held an information session at the Agricultural Hall July 4.

Representing applicant TC Merritt Valley Farms, a company owned by Timbro Contracting Ltd., the firm created poster boards to answer frequently asked questions while a number of private consultants were posted around the room, answering (sometimes heated) questions about the impact of the quarry and its operations.

READ: How we got here: a timeline of the quarry proposal and local resistance

Project manager Ryan Anderson said Timbro had called OTG when they began to see the level of opposition in the community.

“[They] knew that there was some opposition, but it…seemed to really burst in the last little bit and I don’t think anybody really recognized the level that it was,” said Anderson, adding that his company is also managing a number of other applications associated with the quarry, such as the ALR inclusion, mining and farm plate bylaw applications.

Anderson isn’t surprised at the level of opposition the quarry has garnered because he’s seen backlash to similar projects. In his opinon, the biggest reason for opposition to this site is location.

“More than anything else, this is a much, much more high-profile site,” he said. “People are seeing it a lot more so I think it garnered a lot more attention that way.

And nowadays it’s easier to be organized, it’s easier to get information, it’s easier to disseminate information…good for those people for participating.”

The actual plan for the area is residential development, something that hasn’t really been addressed by opposition groups who are far more concerned about the aggregate mining that is proposed to take place beforehand. But the 13-year proposed start and end date listed in the application would see aggregate mined for Timbro projects only, one of which would be a subdivision built right on the quarry site. This plan however, can only come to fruition if the District of Kent approves a rezoning application, since the current zoning is resource management.

“The housing development will bring more value to the area and increase it’s attractiveness,” claimed OTG in its open house presentation.

Dust and air quality

OTG outlined a few ways the developers will mitigate and control dust, including dust suction equipment on drills and dust suppressors on crushing equipment – both tactics mandated by the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) to protect workers on site, “therefore, dust migrating to the town will not be an issue,” stated OTG.

The road leading to the site will be kept with asphalt grindings rather than gravel, and water truck and wetting equipment will be on site at all times during operation.

As for the silica? Consultant Peter Walker said it is dangerous, but at this site, isn’t a huge concern.

“Silica itself is a specific type of rock and it’s very, very abrasive when it gets in the lungs,” he said, adding that high levels of ingestion can lead to serious illness or death.

“It’s not a concern on this site,” he said. “There will be silica in it but it’s very, very, very minimal.”

Silica becomes a bigger concern depending on the type of rock being blasted, he explained. Granite, for example, has a high silica content. Improper crushing and blasting processes can also lead to more silica release.

The opposition group posted outside the Agricultural Hall July 4 remains firm on their stance that the quarry will be damaging to both Agassiz and Harrison. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Blasting and noise

The mined aggregate is for Timbro use only, and there won’t always be a constant need for it, according to OTG.

“It is expected the blasting will occur twice a month, not including the first four months, during which time these activities will happen at a higher frequency,” states the firm. “After that initial period, blasting will only occur twice a month on average.”

OTG also claims that noise from quarry operations will not be noticeable to Harrison residents. According to its own experiments, noise and echo levels monitored at two locations – the entrance to the Village and the start of McCombs Drive and McPherson Road – were not audible during the work day.

Environment and wildlife

Constant monitoring is a big part of the plans for conservation, according to Howard Ratzlaff from HCR Environmental Consulting.

“In terms of mitigating potential impacts to wildlife – fish and especially endangered species, I don’t think that this project is any different than a lot of other development that goes on around…sensitive streams like this,” he said. “The main point is that we want to make sure that all the measures get put in place and that they’re effectively…monitored so that we know those measures are effective.”

According to OTG’s presentation, fencing will be required in certain areas to prevent wildlife from accessing the premises, and a qualified environmental professional (QEP) has been retained to address environmental concerns.

As per Ministry of Environment regulations, the following actions are listed by OTG:

  • Bird nest surveys will be conducted prior to land clearing
  • Protection will be provided for creeks that might carry fish (the nature of that protection is not specified)
  • Surveys regarding endangered species have been conducted

Local economy and lifestyle

With blasting only twice a month, drilling once a month and aggregate production limited to five months a year, OTG claims the impact on local residents will be minimal. A treed hedge will keep operations “to a minimum from the public eye.”

Another point they brought forward involves trucking volume. Timbro’s trucks have been commuting to and from the Armstrong Sand and Gravel Pit in the area to job sites for the last fifteen years.

According to OTG, “the company is not adding any additional trucks on the road, just slightly changing the route to a shorter route.”

Finally, the firm says that tourism in the Village of Harrison will not be impacted by development because it is; “not visible from the Village tourist area, too far from noise and not in the Village of Harrison Hot Springs.”

A map from OTG Development Concepts’ presentation illustrates just how traffic will be impacted – and that trucks are already in the area going to and from the Armstrong Sand Gravel Pit. (Submitted)

Community opposition holds firm

Michie Vidal, organizer of opposition group Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs, said her concerns were not resolved by the open house.

Dennis Hill’s top concerns about the quarry include air, the community, traffic and wildlife. Hill moved to Harrison Hot Springs two and a half years ago. “We moved there because it was so quiet and peaceful and [has] nice, clean air,” he said. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Vidal stood outside the Agricultural Hall July 4 with a number of people from the group, all holding signs condemning the quarry. A man stood on a platform playing bagpipes while members marched. The group had held their own sort of information session – giving away pamphlets and offering coffee and water to those who stopped by.

“We’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing,” Vidal said. “The committee will get together next week and we’ll decide our next course of action. I think we’re doing it the right way. And I think we just need to keep making Victoria aware of the opposition.”

An independent statutory decision maker is tasked with determining whether the mine application is approved, weighing all information and input from community members and stakeholders.

RELATED: Hundreds of Agassiz, Harrison residents gather to oppose quarry application

RELATED: Proper engagement needed for quarry development: expert

RELATED: Local MLA, MP stand behind residents opposing quarry

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