Canadian Consulting Engineer

Highway specifications should require “green gravel” say campaigners

The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance has launched a campaign to persuade the provincial government and the aggregate indu...

September 10, 2007   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance has launched a campaign to persuade the provincial government and the aggregate industry to tighten its environmental rules regarding what is a staple material of the construction industry.
According to the alliance’s position paper entitled Green Gravel: “Aggregates are important to society — we use them for our homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, roads and transit, and environmental works, among other purposes. At the same time, their extraction has inherently disastrous effects on our air, water, natural and hydrologic features, agricultural lands and other competing land use, climate and community quality of life.”
As a result, the alliance, which has 81 environmental groups on its list, claims, “the current ‘business as usual’ policies for extraction of stone, sand, gravel and shale in the province of Ontario are unsustainable.”
First, the campaigners say the government must reform the Aggregate Resources Act and Planning Act to ensure that affected First Nations are consulted.
They also want the government to control more tightly who gets licences to extract the materials, and suggest that ministries and municipalities issuing specifications for highways and roads should reflect the need for new sustainable composites, and for conserving and recycling aggregates.
They want a ban on allowing new quarries in certain areas such as the Niagara Escarpment or the Oak Ridges Moraine, and they want mandatory standards to be applied for controlling the emissions during extraction, which include carbon dioxide, dust and particulate matters.
The members of the alliance also say that the aggregate industry “should not be policing itself.” They want the provincial government to give the public more time to respond to applications for new quarries. They say: “Level the playing field during the review process from the current situation where the industry proponent takes years to prepare a complex application, with extensive funds and ministry advice, and the public is given 45 days to respond …”
The government needs to invest in more staff for ensuring that aggregate companies comply with the laws and site plans, say the campaigners. For example, they suggest it could be using GPS, satellite and real-time video technologies to monitor quarrying operations on site and during hauling.
See www.greenbelt.ca


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