Quarry plans change amidst public backlash
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | August 3, 2017
After receiving lots of feedback from the public, Eric Doetsch is scaling down his plans for a proposed quarry and aggregate pit near Dorset.
“There has been quite a reaction to this proposal,” Doetsch told a large crowd during an information session at the Dorset Recreation Centre on July 29. He is the co-owner of Bacher Construction Limited, the company that hosted the meeting.
“We’ve heard your concerns, we understand them and we want to address them as a community with dialogue,” he said.
Three weeks ago, residents within 300 m of the pit were informed about the proposal when they received letters in the mail from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). They’ve been given a month to provide feedback. The deadline is Aug. 8.
The property, known as the McClintock pit, is on Crown land six kilometers northeast of Dorset, next to Harvey Lake.
Bacher hired consultants to conduct studies in areas such as the natural environment, noise and blast impact, and ground water assessments.
Initially, the proposed expansion allowed for up to 285,000 tonnes of material to be extracted annually. That has since been reduced nearly 75 per cent to 75,000 tonnes. Doetsch currently extracts 6-8,000 tonnes from the pit.
Since noise is a major concern, it won’t be a 24/7 operation. Site clearing is now proposed to take place during an eight-month period, between Sept. 1 and April 30. The hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday, but blasting will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Trucks can haul between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
“The blast design will be continually reviewed as they get new information, because every blast has to be recorded,” said David Villard, a consultant for Doetsch. “All of these reports and studies will be refined as new information becomes available.”
Doetsch plans to expand the pit from two acres to close to 22 hectares (about 54 acres). The extractable area is 14.85 hectares (less than 37 acres).
When taking questions from the public, Harvey Lake cottager Mike Riehm asked Doetsch if he would be willing to go smaller.
“I think it’s our job to push you on that,” said Riehm.
“The reason we picked 75,000 is we felt that’s the number that the pit would not be valuable for anyone to buy [it],” responded Doetsch, adding he would “think about it.”
Nicole Des Roches Court said she recently purchased a cottage on Harvey Lake with her husband. They are concerned about protecting their daughters, ages six and nine, from fly rock caused by blasting.
“How will you mitigate the fly rock?” she asked Doetsch. “How can you guarantee that one of my children—and my grandchildren 50 years from now—will not be injured by such fly rock?”
Doetsch said his company has blasted within 10 feet of buildings for foundations and in the centre of communities. Since it’s become a complicated process, they hire qualified professionals to do the work.
“They are extremely responsible and I do not hire people who are irresponsible. We have never had an incident in 30 years of blasting,” he said.
An emotional Des Roches Court was frustrated because the consultants who did the studies weren’t in attendance. No one from the MNRF was there, either.
Another common concern was the protection of the Blanding’s turtle, an endangered species. But according to the presentation, Doetsch will work closely with the MNRF to ensure they are protected.
“He [Doetsch] will be doing what the MNRF tells him to,” said Villard. “If MNRF says you have to built a six-foot wall around every wetland, he would have to do it.”
One resident of 15 years asked what blasting might to do his drinking water.
“The consultant looked for wells within the area that could potentially impact the ground water,” said Kathleen Hedley, the meeting’s volunteer facilitator. “They found none. So there is no expected impact to any drinking water wells.”
According to the MNRF, the proposal has been tentatively classified as Category B, meaning there’s potential for low to medium negative effects and concern. Additional requirements could come from other pieces of legislation such as the Planning Act, Ontario Water Resources Act, Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
MNRF must issue an aggregate permit before Doetsch can launch the operation. It’s unknown how long the process will take. However, a document issued to residents states the MNRF “may proceed to implement the project without issuing a further general notice.”
Doetsch was not required to host a meeting as part of the application process.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.