TORONTO –Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath challenged the McGuinty government today to protect Ontario’s Greenbelt from becoming a Greedbelt. She called on the government to follow the Environment Commissioner of Ontario’s recent recommendations to get to “NO” and screen out quarry development proposals, like the proposed St Marys CBM Flamborough quarry, that threaten drinking water and natural features.

“The McGuinty government needs to look at the ‘big picture’ view to protect Ontarians’ health and the environment,” said Andrea Horwath. “That is why they passed the laws in the first place. Greenbelt and drinking water protection should not take a back seat to quarry development.”

Horwath released a letter that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) sent to quarry proponent, St Marys CBM, on October 30, 2008. The letter gives St Marys an ‘F’ for a July 2008 water pumping test but allows St Marys redo the test. The 2008 test was a redo of a previous failed pumping test. The letter also suggests a way for the quarry proponent to amend its testing plan. This is a classic example of the ‘inherent presumption of development’ cited in the Environment Commissioner of Ontario’s 2006-2007 report where quarry development applications may be continually amended until they are finally approved while the government fails to ask the fundamental question about whether new quarries need to be developed in protected areas at all.

“If you are a student at school and you get an ‘F’ on a test, you fail,” Horwath said. “If you’re an aggregate company trying to develop a new quarry in the Greenbelt in a municipality’s drinking water protection area, you can keep getting ‘F’s, get more chances to redo your tests, and still make your way through the development process.”

St Marys CBM purchased Lowndes Holdings Corporation, and 380 acres of land, in June 2006 to develop a massive below the water table quarry. The company owns an adjacent parcel of 154 acres with the stated intention to expand. The lands are completely within the Natural Heritage System of Ontario’s Greenbelt, including Provincially Significant Wetlands, significant woodlands, species at risk, and working agricultural lands. The lands are also found within the significant recharge and the 2 year Time of Travel (TOT) to the Wellhead Protection Area for the Carlisle ground-water based municipal drinking system in the City of Hamilton.

“No ‘reasonable person’ would approve a new quarry in this location,” noted Graham Flint, Chair and spokesperson for Friends of Rural Communities and the Environment (FORCE).

Experts to the MOE have called quarries a man-made threat of provincial concern to drinking water because they create a direct pathway to the aquifer. The experts recommended no new quarries within the 5 year Time of Travel (TOT) to a municipal Wellhead Protection Area. The St Marys CBM proposal is even closer at the 2 year TOT.

“We call on the McGuinty government to walk the talk on its Greenbelt and Clean Water laws and stop this quarry,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “If this quarry proceeds, no drinking water protection area or land in the Greenbelt is safe. Ontario has a real opportunity to lead the way by setting a green standard for the aggregate industry to help foster a green economy and green jobs.”

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Media contacts:

Sheila White
Andrea Horwath’s office
(416) 325 – 2777 or (416) 902-0977

Jennifer Foulds
Environmental Defence
(416) 323 – 9521, ext. 232 or (647) 280 – 9521 (cell)

Graham Flint
FORCE
(905) 659-5417 or (416) 528 – 4510 (cell)