Recycling is a fine idea, but it has no place in a gravel pit proposed for the Winterbourne Valley, Woolwich council decided this week.
The decision removes the option of recycling concrete and asphalt from Kuntz Topsoil, Sand and Gravel’s application to operate mine gravel from a site at 125 Peel St. is close to Winterbourne, Conestogo and West Montrose.
The company is seeking to extract some 840,000 tonnes of aggregate, incorporating the recycling of concrete and asphalt – along with screening topsoil – into the operation. Its application to Woolwich Township is currently the subject of legal action before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
In a split vote Monday night, council took to heart a litany of health and environmental concerns raised by residents, opting to remove the recycling provisions. In doing so, they were swayed by arguments such as those by Conestogo resident Della Stroobosscher, who outlined the health concerns linked to crystalline silica, a carcinogenic substance often associated with respiratory illnesses such as silicosis.
The province, she noted, has no guidelines related the dust created by recycling operations at gravel operations, nor did any of the applicant’s dust studies address the recycling component.
Her assertion that the recycling operation would be an industrial activity incompatible with surrounding residential neighbourhoods echoed those of Winterbourne resident Jan Huissoon, an engineer and University of Waterloo professor who said the industrial process should be situated appropriately, not near people’s homes.
For West Montrose’s Lynn Hare, that fact that the approval process is a municipal responsibility means the township had an easy way to protect the public interest, which is council’s primary role, she argued.
That struck home with Coun. Bonnie Bryant, council’s most critical voice on the gravel pit issue, who pushed for the removal of the recycling option from the Kuntz bid.
Citing figures from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Bryant noted the public can’t depend on the industry or the province to protect its interests.
“We’ve got a big problem with compliance in our pits,” she said of getting operators to follow the rules.
“We have to say no.”
Her motion was quickly backed by fellow councillors Julie-Anne Herteis and Allan Poffenroth. Coun. Mark Bauman was the lone dissenter, saying he feared yet more legal action – “OMB roulette.”
Bauman also argued in favour of the township’s plan to govern the recycling operation through a temporary-use bylaw, noting that leaving the matter entirely in the hands of the province could lead to an outcome whereby Woolwich has fewer controls over the operation.
Council’s decision is likely to have an impact on legal proceedings currently before the OMB, as the applicant’s plans included processing up to 30,000 tonnes of recycled material annually.
Still, the township is of the opinion, based on legal input, that the zone-change application needed to permit gravel extraction on the farmland and the municipal clearance for the recycling operation are separate issues, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley in a later interview.
The impact is certainly bound to be part of OMB mediation talks scheduled for the late-September, he added.