This is a guest blog by Carolee Mason, a member of the Friends of Lanark Highlands.


The Friends of Lanark Highlands are dedicated to preserving its rich natural heritage. As a group, we embody one of the most defining characteristics of the region’s Blanding’s turtles — resilience.

Our grassroots campaign stands firm against the looming threat of a new, massive aggregate operation encroaching on our environment which is home to many ecologically important species. We’re committed to safeguarding our landscape teeming with life and nurturing the thriving eco-tourism economy that defines us.

We harbor deep concerns about the potential excavation’s impact on the area’s complex and important aquifer that supplies groundwater to the wider community. We are equally concerned about the prospect of extracting uranium, exclusive to the Barbers Lake Pluton, lurking beneath the protective sand overburden.

The proposed pit development also poses a looming threat to nearby maple sugar bush farms and Wheelers Maple, a National Heritage site. It welcomes over 40,000 visitors from across the globe annually.

Changes to the Environmental Protection Act (EPA)

Like many other communities in rural Ontario, Lanark Highlands has been caught off guard by the Ontario government’s dramatic announcement of changes to the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).

The Ontario government’s “Permissions Modernization Team” is soliciting input through the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) around amendments to the EPA that would rewrite policy and regulations for industrial sites — including aggregate extraction —  around water taking, dewatering, storm water run off, and the storage of construction waste

The stated goal is to “streamline” and “cut red tape” in the issuance of permits for the management of surface water and the taking of ground water for industries — like pits and quarries.

Now, licenced aggregate operations must apply through the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for water taking permits. Public scrutiny and ministry oversight are part of the approvals process.

Under new legislation, industries like aggregate would apply through the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR).

How will this new legislation weaken environmental protection?

  • Designed to hasten “getting shovels in the ground”, the “EASR” offers on online approvals process in granting permits to the extractive industries for water and waste management.

  • Projects could be required to provide supporting material by “qualified persons” who would be contracted by the proponent to give their stamp of approval.

  • Public input would cease. Further, limits to the volume of water taken from ground water sources would be removed.

Ontario residents of rural communities on the fringe of the Canadian Shield, where aggregate operations propose to extract in environmentally sensitive areas with networks of streams, wetlands and lakes, are sounding the alarm.

Public input and consultation is crucial. 

Take action to protect water and habitats in Ontario

Our lakes and rivers are at risk from potentially contaminated industrial surface water. The aquifers that support our domestic and business water supplies are further threatened by fine particle and bacterial infiltration through deep below-the-water-table extraction. We need more oversight of these vulnerable resources, not less.

The deadline for public submission to the ERO is October 30. It is our only opportunity to make our concerns known.

How To Comment on an ERO posting:

  1. Click on the link below.

  2. Click the blue ‘Submit a Comment’ button.

  3. If you don’t want to create an ERO account you can scroll down and click ‘Comment without registering.’

  4. Type your comment in the box then scroll down and click Submit.

Red button that says "take action"

You can also submit by emailing and including ‘ERO # 019-6951’ in your subject line.

What Should I Say?

  • If you have been personally impacted by a pit or quarry mention it briefly.
  • Clearly state in your own words that the EASR process is not appropriate for pits and quarries (also called aggregate operations).
  • There is no need to streamline approvals for pits and quarries because we have decades of aggregate supply at sites that have already been approved.
  • Pits and quarries can have devastating impacts on wildlife, water quality and local communities, so there is a clear need for public input and consultation for these projects.

This is a guest blog by Carolee Mason, a member of the Friends of Lanark Highlands. Carolee is a theatre educator who has shifted her spotlight to the wilderness setting of Lanark Highlands, Ontario, which is under new threat from the aggregate industry.