The province's Environment Department has approved a controversial quarry in Goffs, near Fall River.
Scotian Materials Ltd. has received a 10-year approval to operate a four-hectare site on Perrin Drive. Company president Rob MacPherson said he is pleased to finally have the approval.
"I'd been confident in allowing this regulatory review process to unfold," he said.
It's been a long process for the company to reach this point. It filed a new application for the permit in early 2016 after abandoning a plan for a judicial review of a decision by former environment minister Andrew Younger to revoke an earlier permit.
Public consultation a key
When Younger yanked the approval in 2015, he attributed the decision to a lack of public consultation by the company.
The company's new application included open house meetings, direct stakeholder meetings and a dedicated project web page that could receive public comments.
MacPherson said some of the comments had been addressed in the past, "but probably we didn't do the best job we could at explaining that to the community."
Adrian Fuller, the Environment Department's executive director of enforcement and compliance, said the new approval was granted after the company satisfied public consultation requirements and addressed concerns about blasting, noise and water protection efforts.
"With the information that we gathered through that process and through the lengthy review, we were able to reach this decision today," Fuller said in an interview.
The department also received a hydrogeological study from the company looking at groundwater concerns. MacPherson said 16 monitoring wells drilled as part of that study — which mapped groundwater around the quarry — will serve as baseline monitoring and an early warning sign, should something change.
Throughout Scotian Materials's efforts to open the quarry there have been concerns from residents and area politicians opposed to the plan. One of those people expressing disappointment with the decision on Monday is a member of the Liberal government.
Liberal MLA disappointed
Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank MLA Bill Horne issued a statement saying he would work with the Environment Department to ensure the company is in full compliance with all terms and conditions of its approval.
Stacey Rudderham, a community member, has opposed the project throughout the process, but said she isn't surprised it was approved. An ongoing concern for her is a plan by the company to do quarry work below the water table — something she said wasn't made clear to the community.
Any potential risks to the water are particularly pressing in her area, said Rudderham, because they don't have municipal water service.
MacPherson said the hydrogeological study showed that people's wells were "a faraway distance" from the operation.
Monitoring in place
MacPherson said now that the company has its permit, it would go ahead with hiring staff. Quarry-related work could begin as soon as late summer or early autumn, once environmental controls are in place and site preparation is complete, he said.
Fuller said people with concerns should know there is an opportunity to be a part of a community liaison committee for the project, and that the department believes the necessary steps to mitigate problems are in place.
Anyone wishing to appeal the department's decision has until July 19 to do so. Newly minted Environment Minister Iain Rankin would rule on any appeals.