Concerned Rockwood, Ont. residents fill Hidden Quarry OMB hearing

Concerned residents filled the small council chambers at the Guelph Eramosa Township offices Tuesday for the first day of the Ontario Municipal Board hearing of the Hidden Quarry planned for just outside Rockwood, Ont.

Residents say this is not a case of NIMBYism, but what’s best for the area

Residents of Rockwood, Ontario are concerned about a proposed quarry in the area, how it could affect the local water supply. The Ontario Municipal Board began a hearing, expected to last eight weeks, into the quarry. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The vice president of a construction company that wants to open a quarry near Rockwood, Ont., says the type of rock the quarry would produce make stronger concrete, which would benefit municipalities looking to build longer-lasting bridges, buildings and infrastructure.

"If we can build bridges that have a longer service life, it's going to be much cheaper," Greg Sweetnam, vice president of James Dick Construction Limited, told the first day of an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing about the Hidden Quarry, which is proposed for a property on Highway 7 and Line 6, just outside Rockwood and about 75 km west of Toronto.

Sweetnam made his case at the hearing on Tuesday, attended by about 70 local residents who are worried about how a quarry could affect their properties and water supply. 

James Dick Construction wants to open a gravel and sand pit, as well as a dolomite quarry, on the Hidden Quarry property.

Dolomite - and in particular Amabel dolostone, which is found at the Hidden Quarry site - is a highly sought after construction material known for its strength.

Sweetnam said many bridges are built using aggregate that just passes the grade to last for the one or two-year warranty, which is the norm in the industry.

He compared that to the CN Tower, which was built of dolomite. Sweetnam said it isn't scheduled for any kind of major remediation work for another 1,200 years.

"We'll do a good job. We're committed to making this project a responsible, safe and energy-efficient source of the highest-quality aggregate resource to help build a strong Ontario," Sweetnam said.

Residents worried

Natalie Jaroszewski wants to know how a proposed quarry beside her mushroom farm could affect her family-run business.

"I'm concerned about the water contaminants. I'm concerned about the air, flyrock. If he starts blasting, it's a joke, but I'm going to have to have a hard hat. My building's going to crumble," she said, outside the Guelph Eramosa Township offices Tuesday.

She and about 70 other residents attended the hearing Tuesday.  Vehicles filled the parking lot and lined up along Wellington Road 124 in front of the offices.

Jaroszewski's family started W&T Mushrooms in 1984. She said her concerns are more than just not wanting to be near a quarry.

"I understand NIMBY, not in my backyard, but it's really unfair for a company this large to want to open a quarry beside a farm that has been farming for 30 years," she said. "Wrong place. Rockwood is not the place for this."

Doug Webster owns a 1880 log house with a fieldstone foundation about 900 metres south of the quarry property.

"Blasting is bound to shake that foundation apart," he said. 

"Everything is a concern about this. The fact that they want to do this just speaks to their lack of care for community. This is not good for Rockwood, it's not good for anyone around it," he said. "The OMB will hopefully put an end to this nonsense."

Subaqueous blasting

Sweetman said the company plans to use subaqueous extraction,a type of blasting to extract the rock. Blasts are setup alongside the edge of a quarry, and the blasted material falls into the water and then is taken out.  

Sweetman said traditionally, companies pump water out of a quarry to get at the rock and it can take decades for the quarry to refill with water once operations are complete, but with subaqueous extraction, the water stays where it is and rehabilitation of the site is almost immediate.

"We have a high degree of confidence in this extraction technique," he said. "We think it's the way of the future."

The company argues their methods won't adversely affect local water sources.

But Harry Wilson is not so sure. He lives on Fifth Line, south of the proposed quarry site. The water that flows onto his property comes from the north and flows directly through the quarry site.

"I'm not a NIMBY person. I deplore NIMBYism," he said.

"As I listened, as I judged, I discovered very quickly that the parameters of study that James Dick Construction had established did not include those areas south of number seven highway [Highway 7], even though it is literally less than a stone's throw away from their quarry site."

Hearing to take eight weeks

OMB vice chair Steve Stefanko stressed he wants to keep things moving as the hearing is expected to take between five and seven weeks.

One day will be set aside as a participant day, and the Concerned Residents Coalition plans to have a number of speakers who can address their various concerns.

"I fully appreciate the passion and the sincerity that you have," Stefanko said to the people in attendance at the hearing. "What I want to avoid is a bunch of people coming up and saying the same thing."

For its part, Guelph Eramosa Township has said it will not be taking part in the hearing and will not file any witness statements. But a lawyer for the township said the township is against the quarry.


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