British Columbia

Central Okanagan residents, irrigation district concerned over proposed 40-year gravel quarry

Residents of the Joe Rich area east of Kelowna, B.C., oppose a sand, rock and gravel quarry proposed for their rural community, saying the 40-year project could pose health and safety risks for nearby residents.

Quarry would see truckloads of gravel hauled through rural Joe Rich community for the next 40 years

Residents of the rural Joe Rich area east of Kelowna are concerned about the threats to their health and safety if a new gravel quarry (not pictured) is approved for their neighbourhood. (Pixabay/Creative Commons)

Residents of the Joe Rich area east of Kelowna, B.C., say they oppose a sand, rock and gravel quarry proposed for their rural community.

Westridge Rock Ventures Ltd., which owns four other sites in the Okanagan, submitted an application to the province last December. It says the 30-hectare quarry site would sit a few kilometres east of the city and would see truckloads of gravel hauled down Highway 33, every day for the next 40 years.

The company says the quarry is needed to meet the "growing demand for quality, crushed aggregates," and to support economic growth in Kelowna and the surrounding area. 

"Our biggest concern is the health and safety of our community," Jim Turner, the head of the Joe Rich Community Quarry Taskforce, told CBC's Daybreak South. "Dust. Noise. This gravel pit [would be] put right in the middle of our community.... Homes are right below and right above it," he said. 

Irrigation district also concerned

The Black Mountain Irrigation District, which provides drinking water for 28,000 people and for over 2,000 hectares of farmland, said it's written B.C.'s Ministry of Mines a letter outlining concerns over the potential for the company's rock blasting to destabilize the silt bluffs below and contaminate the local water supply.

"Silt soils are not the most stable soil, and if you have vibrations ... they tend to erode or they'll slump or they'll move," said Bob Hrasko, the district's administrator, citing a history of concerns with the bluffs.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) has given its support for the quarry, on the condition that the company completes environmental impact studies, and groundwater, dust and noise control assessments beforehand. 

While the final decision rests with B.C.'s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, Turner said no one from the ministry has visited his community to examine the area.

"I'm in contact with the ministry … just about daily," he said. "Nothing's been done. No boots on the ground.... We're frustrated with the whole process." 

Turner said another concern is that the land slated for a possible quarry is not zoned for such a project, but for residential acreage. "Right now it looks like [Westridge Rock Ventures] is going to try and step right past that," he said. 

A statement to CBC from Westridge Rock Ventures says the company's objective is "to align with the provincial government regulations, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, RDCO and local authority inputs, and to devise a sustainable, safe, and beneficial aggregate source within the Okanagan."

The statement goes on to say the company "is scheduled to discuss the proposal with the Joe Rich Ratepayers and Tenants Society. Likewise, a public meeting will be coordinated with the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation."

Turner said he hasn't managed to connect with the company but eagerly awaits a meeting for his community. 

"I don't think we're going to stop [the quarry]. But I'm going to make it as hard as I can for them," he said.

With files from Daybreak South.