Every voice counts

Dear editor:
The Ministry of Natural Resources extended the Aggregate Act to include most of Northern Ontario on Jan 1, 2007. This act is to take effect as of June 30, 2007.
This has been legislated without any consultation with the affected townships that will be severely impacted. No economic impact studies have been conducted—not even as much as talking to sand pit operators.
In brief: this act gives the MNR the right and power to enter, inspect, and dictate to all private land owners what they can or cannot do on their property with regard to fencing, grading, digging, storage, or removal of material.
The act does not even allow the removal of topsoil from pits.
The majority of sand pits in this area have small shallow deposits often close to rock or water, with an average depth of about seven feet (two metres) and a surface area of only a few acres—this according to the survey done by the MNR in 1989.
These small, privately-owned pits have been, until June 30, 2007, the primary source of the material needed to build and install septic systems, roads, driveways, backfill , landscape, etc. in our area for generations.
Most are very small, locally-controlled pits spread over a wide area. They have operated almost unseen and with little, if any, negative environmental impact while maximizing return for energy used to process and deliver product.
These pits are used intermittently by single or a few contractors depending upon location relative to the work being done.
Small pits, when depleted, traditionally have been allowed to naturally regenerate—a process which happens quickly. Often, homes are built on these depleted sites, which have additional benefits.
Licensing fees, surveys, and bureaucratic red tape expenses, together with the artificial environmental costs imposed, will make small pits simply too expensive to operate. The incumbent costs will quickly outweigh the value of the aggregate.
After having talked to more than 30 small local pit owners, I have yet to find one that intends to operate after June 30. These smaller pits number in the 100s in the Parry Sound District alone, and collectively represent the total deposit in some townships.
It seems clear that the only source of sand and topsoil will be large pits in other areas.
This district does not have enough large deposits to fill requirements for any extended period. Trucks will have to travel an average of 10-15 times the distance for each load.
The average distance travelled per load currently is about eight km. The fuel costs and increases in greenhouse gas emissions alone will have a staggering impact, both economically and environmentally.
As small pits close, small contractors will disappear. The result will be septic systems leaking, homes and cottages unusable, builders unable to build, local workers unemployed, and a large vacuum that will last for years.
What we will have, instead, is huge quarries, massive holes in the ground controlled by large corporations wherever large deposits exist, convoys of large trucks damaging roads, increased local taxes for repair, increased smog, decreased land value for some lands, and huge increases in building and repair costs.
Competition will cease to exist.
The negatives seem endless. If corporate control and increased taxes to the MNR are positives, then they are the only positives in sight.
For the sake of this wonderful community we all love, call, write, or e-mail the provincial Liberal government through your local MPP. Tell them to listen to our locally-elected officials.
Let’s keep the control and the health of our future where it belongs—in the hands of our people and townships through our duly-elected local officials.
Every voice counts!
Ron Downey