Toronto, Ontario — Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL) and Environmental Defence have received notice from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources that a series of wetlands on Mount Nemo in Burlington, the Grindstone Creek Headwaters Wetland Complex, have been designated as Provincially Significant.
Numerous species of fish and significant habitat of the threatened Jefferson Salamander were discovered within the fifteen connected wetlands, further underscoring the need for protection. The groups are hailing the designation as a major victory the Niagara Escarpment, the newly created Greenbelt and the people of Ontario.

“This “Provincially Significant” designation from the province rejects the position of Nelson Aggregate and their consultants who are lobbying the government to allow the company to mine the Niagara Escarpment in Burlington. The wetland evaluation and designation was a very large outstanding issue in the quarry application process,” said Sarah Harmer, spokesperson and co-founder of PERL. “The province now agrees with our experts’ findings that these features need protecting.”

The Ministry of Natural Resources evaluation recommends protecting the existing water balance, and that to maintain species and community diversity, the interconnected network of wetlands and uplands should be maintained and strengthened. The recommendations send a clear message to regulators to respect the area’s ultra-sensitive natural heritage systems.

Several other outstanding issues are still being evaluated by a Joint Agency Review Team (“JART”), including the protection of well water, water contamination, and technical feasibility.   The JART will also be asked by PERL and Environmental Defence to consider the strongly critical evaluation of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, in his most recent report (October 2006) in calling for an overhaul of existing MNR policies:

The ECO [Environmental Commissioner of Ontario] has warned repeatedly in past annual reports that the environment is not adequately protected by the existing regulatory and policy framework for pits and quarries. Key shortcomings include erratic compliance, poor enforcement, unacceptably low rates of rehabilitation of disturbed lands, and a policy vacuum on resource conservation.

The Commissioner concluded that “the need for stronger environmental protection is clear”, and recommended additional measures to move away from reliance on aggregate from the Niagara Escarpment, Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt.

“We have the perfect storm of land use conflicts brewing on Mount Nemo, pitting some of Ontario’s most sensitive lands versus yet another quarry,”said David Donnelly, counsel to Environmental Defence. “This case will clearly show people whether our environmental priorities are more important than an individual gravel site, because they haven’t been in the past.”

PERL is a member of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 environmental, health and community groups dedicated to protecting Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. PERL and its experts have been reviewing the application for a below-water table quarry by Nelson Aggregate which seeks to re-zone 82 hectares (200 acres) of land across the road from its existing quarry site from Escarpment Rural to Mineral Extraction.

Mount Nemo is a unique geological feature. As a plateau, it sits above the landscape and relies solely on rainwater to supply its aquifer. It is a source water recharge area with over 20 tributaries originating on top of it and along its slopes. Headwaters of the Grindstone Creek originate on Mount Nemo as do headwaters of Bronte Creek.

Water experts believe that existing water usage on Mount Nemo, especially the 600-acre quarry which has been operating since the 1950’s, is stressing local groundwater and surface water flow systems beyond sustainable levels and that further quarrying would likely put the system into collapse.
 
 About Environmental Defence: Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, safe food and thriving ecosystems. Nationwide. www.environmentaldefence.ca
 
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For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
David Donnelly, Gilbert’s LLP, (416) 703-3236; (416) 722-0220 (cell)
Sarah Harmer, PERL, info@perlofburlington.org