Thunder Bay

Gravel pit operators near Thunder Bay to now follow Ontario legislation

Gravel pit operators in the Lappe area, north of Thunder Bay, now have to abide by Ontario's Aggregate Resources Act. The new provincial regulations came into affect on January 1, 2016.

Gravel pit operators must be compliant with zoning and permitting under Aggregate Resources Act

Gravel pits, such as this one near Surprise Lake north of Thunder Bay, have been contentious in the rural area, as very few provincial regulations applied for the pits, until they were placed under the Aggregate Resources Act. (Lorne Taylor)

Gravel pit operators in the Lappe area, north of Thunder Bay, now have to abide by Ontario's Aggregate Resources Act. The new provincial regulations came into affect on January 1, 2016.

Property owners wanted the act extended to Gorham and Ware townships because pit operators in the area had virtually no rules to follow.

Gravel pits will no longer be able to pop up overnight, since operators will have to go through a more formal process before they can start digging gravel out of the ground, said the chair of the Lappe Services Board.

"You look out your window one morning, and oh, there's a gravel pit across from my driveway, without any permission at all. Now, it won't happen that way," said Ralph Bullough.

A number of procedures, including archaeological testing, must be done on new sites before digging can commence.

The major issue in the rural area has been an improperly zoned gravel pit on Virolaininen Road. Although the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change shut down the use of a mobile crusher on the site about two years ago, blasting has recently been taking place at the pit. Nearby homeowners have complained about a lack of proper consultation and concerns over well water.

The new regulations dictate that gravel pits must now be licensed, and compliant with zoning, Bullough said.

"There has been friction in the township over extraction processes. There's a number of people, especially in the Surprise, Trout Lake area that do view this as a victory. This will provide better guidance and some rules and regulations around how things operate," said Bullough.

The Ontario government also charges a fee based on how much gravel is extracted, when the pits fall under the Aggregate Resources Act.

Bullough said he hopes that after the review, local roads boards will receive a portion of the fees.

At present, the Gorham Roads Board is responsible for maintaining secondary dirt and gravel roads, now being travelled by large trucks. Bullough said the roads take a beating after being travelled on by heavy trucks day after day.

The provincial act also mandates that owners must provide a reclamation plan for the pit, and will no longer be able to walk away from the project when it stops being productive, he said, adding that has been a major issue in the past.

Operators have until June 30, 2016 to have all of their zoning and permits in order.

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