An environmental lawyer says he's shocked to learn gravel pits are allowed to open up virtually anywhere in unorganized townships in the Northwest. 

"In the north it seems to be open season on putting these pits in where in many cases either don't belong, or the operators should be more responsive to local concerns,​" said David Donnelly, legal counsel for the Toronto-based Environmental Defence group.

Donnelly's remarks came after a gravel pit managed by Taranis Construction opened near Surprise Lake and homeowners found no regulations covering noise and hours of operation. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Thunder Bay land is mostly unregulated by Ontario's Aggregate Resources Act — a set of operating standards for provincial resource extraction.

David Donnelly

Environmental lawyer David Donnelly says rural Thunder Bay residents should fight against round-the-clock gravel pit operations.

Property owners in rural parts of northern Ontario should have the same rights to peace and quiet as those who live in the south, where pits and quarries are more regulated, says Donnelly. He is also a member of the Cornerstone Standards Council, a group working to set up standards for extracting sand and gravel.

Landowners in the rural Thunder Bay area should not give up the fight against round-the-clock gravel operations, Donnelly says. He suggests that locals petition the local Ministry of the Environment Office to survey noise pollution and dust inundation from the gravel pits.

The ministry must also provide a report about whether residents' rights are being violated, says Donnelly.

Taranis Construction has not directly addressed the concerns of residents, but CBC News has learned the processing of a Taranis application to approve a mobile rock crusher in the Thunder Bay area has been postponed. According to the province's Environmental Registry website, the application for the unit is being revised.

A government permit would enable the rock crusher to be relocated to other gravel pits from time to time.

Aggregated Resources Act Map

A map showing Ontario regions, shaded, regulated under the Aggregated Resources Act. Unshaded areas face resource extraction without regulation. (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)