July 14, 2020
Dear JART Members,
My name is Gord Pinard and I am a director with Conserving Our Rural Ecosystems of Burlington Inc (CORE Burlington),
Conserving Our Rural Ecosystems Burlington Inc (CORE Burlington) is a volunteer organization of Burlington residents with a mission to preserve the ecological integrity of Rural Burlington, and to advocate for healthier communities by protecting our land, air and water. We are concerned that the plans that Nelson Aggregate has to open two new open pit mines are a serious threat to Rural Burlington.
Our team has reviewed the application documents, submitted to JART by Nelson Aggregate, and we believe the application to be incomplete. There are number of examples of studies and assessments lacking in comprehensiveness, rigour, study duration and/or data quality. We have provided four examples below:
Species at Risk
We believe that the Species at Risk studies and assessment are “incomplete”. Many of the threatened, endangered, and of-concern species are known to inhabit the area ... Redheaded Woodpecker, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Fox-snake, Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Unisexual Ambystoma salamander, and special concern Eastern Milk-snake, Eastern Newt.
Curiously, well documented and designated Jefferson Salamanders were not found. Puzzling that terrestrial “pitfall traps” were not used in nearby woodlands (primary salamander habitat) to capture salamanders. Jefferson Salamanders return to their hatching sites, traversing wide terrestrial features from their woodland habitats to get there.
Savanta used only aquatic “minnow traps” in the watercourses. The MNR 2005 salamander study of the south lands used both terrestrial and minnow traps, which captured a number of Jefferson Salamanders, and many more Unisexual Ambystoma salamanders (Jefferson Salamander dependant for breeding).
Another curiosity is that no amphibian egg masses were found, yet significant amphibian presence was recorded. Only one snake species found? We also find the cavalier attitude on removal of bat habitat disturbing.
The Species at Risk are designated ‘at risk’ because their numbers have been reduced by development. Finding them requires more time and effort than that taken by Nelson Aggregate’s consultant, Savanta. Concluding that a species is “unlikely present” does not necessarily make it so. They are there. Nelson Aggregate has had eight years to do comprehensive studies.
Hydrogeology and Hydrology
We believe the Hydrogeology and Hydrology study is “incomplete”. The baseline scenario is compiled from data spanning 2010 to 2019 and various simulations were run, but many did not compare data for all years. There are a number of gaps in the analysis (eg - Baseline Conditions Analysis, Wetland Water Budgets and Drawdowns and Surface Water Flows) where simulations only covered years (2010-2014) which do not include drought years and would likely underestimate the impact of the two new open pit mines.
There is no attempt to project what the modelling would produce in a worst-case scenario, as may be anticipated with the effects of climate change. Rather, Nelson Aggregate appears to be treating climate change trends as anomalies rather than part of the base data.
We question the assertion that the groundwaters are isolated from the surface waters. This connectivity would change the water balance significantly. During the last Joint Board Hearing, expert testimony showed groundwater and surface water connectivity.
Nelson Aggregate’s operation over 75 years has created an ecological offsite dependency that they should have an obligation to deal with. The report gives no timeline for the refilling of the current excavation and how water levels and flows are affected by the returning of water into the excavation. It would be expected that the surrounding area will be deprived of water, because it will now be allowed to refill the hole. Neither letting the downstream fish habitat suffer, nor the sustainment of the existing situation at the risk of impacting other critical water users is acceptable and Nelson has not adequately addressed the threat associated with their operation (current and proposed)
We have concerns about the surface water quantity and quality that has not been adequately addressed in the Tatham Report and therefore consider this report to be “incomplete”. The background studies have only gone to 2012 with references dating back to 1996, but there is no data of analysis between 2012 and the present.
Furthermore, while suspended solids and pH data is within guidelines, Nelson Aggregate has failed to incorporate more stringent quality analysis to characterize the water and suspended solids, as they are re-entering the watershed from the on-site settling ponds. Anecdotal reports from local residents, indicate occasional murkiness and odour has been observed in the water discharge leading us to have concerns that untreated water is being pumped into the watershed from the quarry operation.
Wilbrook Creek: part of watershed, Mt. Nemo Plateau, off Cedar Springs Rd
Burlington Escarpment, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
It is our position that the water entering the watershed should, at the very least meet Ontario EPA standards, as these waterways support not only plant and animal life, but indirectly area wells. We would expect that a “complete” report would properly assess and characterize the discharge water from the site, including the silt in the settling ponds, which may be in the discharge water (as suspended solids). We ask that the discharge waters from the quarry be analyzed for full spectrum chemical content, which must meet Ontario Water Resources Act clean water standards
Finally, surface water impact from the asphalt plant has not been addressed in the report, which can potentially leach hydrocarbon runoff to the settling ponds, which in turn feed the pumps sustaining the existing watershed.
We believe that the Air Quality report is “incomplete”. The study is based exclusively on modelling to predict the cumulative impact against air quality standards. The models are fed by emission factors from the EPA (some of which are over 30 years old), background data (which is not available locally for all data requirements) and manufacturers data (which represents a best case and may not be reflective of actual operation). Unfortunately, there is no reported actual air sampling programs to validate the accuracy of the input data and predicted results.
As noted in the report, background concentrations of CoPC’s are a critical part of the assessment of cumulative impacts, yet “representative” background data is utilized from regions that are a significant distance from the site, including Brantford, Newmarket, Simcoe and Toronto West. It is not clear as to how locations over 100 km away, with different traffic, industrial and residential profiles can be representative of the background concentrations required to model air quality around the Nelson Aggregate operation. In the absence of available representative data, it would be prudent to establish a rigorous monitoring program and properly assess the local background concentration
AERMOD (v16216r) is reported to be the modelling tool utilized, however, our understanding is that as of April 2020, AERMOD (v19191) is required for all regulatory reviews in Ontario. Similarly, tank emissions are based on TANKS 4.09D emission estimation tool. This tool has known technical problems and difficulties implementing AP-42 and this tool is no longer endorsed by Environment Canada. EPA has recommended the direct use of equations and procedures specified in AP-42 Section 7.1 rather than relying on the TANKS 4.09d model.
Comprehensive air quality impact assessment must include ALL sources of air emission in operation or to be in operation within the Nelson Aggregate quarries and all types of emissions including dust, PM2.5, VOC, NOx, etc.
CORE Burlington also supports the PERL position on the gaps in the Karst report submitted on July 7, 2020 and attached.
Although, this is not an exhaustive list of study work that we would consider to be incomplete, we believe it demonstrates significant gaps in application documents submitted that would warrant the JART to deem the application “not complete” as submitted and request Nelson Aggregate to do the necessary work required to complete these very critical studies.
We appreciate your consideration and remain available to answer any questions you may have,
Director – CORE Burlington