Water supply being put at risk

August 7, 2011

Healthy Environment

Guelph relies solely on groundwater for its drinking water.

We take the protection of that groundwater supply very seriously.

Since the Walkerton Inquiry, the Province has also seemed to take source water protection seriously with the Clean Water Act. The Walkerton Inquiry promoted the multiple barrier approach to drinking water safety.

However, the recent approvals granted to Dolime by the Ministries of Natural Resources (MNR) and Environment (MOE) fly in the face of the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry, are contrary to the goals of the Clean Water Act to protect source water and simply lack basic common sense.

Much of Guelph’s water groundwater supply is protected from contamination from the surface by a special naturally-occurring geological layer. What a remarkable blessing!

But Dolime has recently begun to punch through that natural protective barrier. Rather than stopping this assault on the safety of Guelph’s drinking water, MNR and MOE have just given the nod to Dolime to punch an even bigger hole. Dolime’s “rehabilitation” plans provide no assurances to Guelph. It makes no sense to remove approximately 5 m of the natural protective barrier and replace it with 0.15 m of quarry fines.  The Management Plan that has been approved by the Province provides no protection to the City’s water supply.

The City has eight municipal wells that draw water directly from this groundwater supply. Moreover, this area has been identified as a priority for future water supply.

This is a staggering threat to our local water supply.

In Guelph, residents have expressed concern about the proposed mega-quarry in Melancthon Township north of Guelph despite the fact this does not directly impact our local water supply.  This is great.  However, it is essential that we also pay attention to what is going on in our own backyard.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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9 Comments on “Water supply being put at risk”

  1. mamameme Says:

    HI Karen,

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I am very concerned about the Melanchton quarry and water issues. I think that this approval is a horrible step in the wrong direction. what are next steps we can take? and where was the City’s voice in trying to stop it. I get city news every week and never heard about this issue until now. if you could send me in the right direction to prevent this from happening, i would really appreciate it.

  2. Jane Thornton Says:

    What steps has the City taken thus far to curb further punching through that natural protective barrier? What is the City willing to do to thwart this course of action by Dolime? I ask this in case there is an initiative underway which people could join.

  3. kfarbridge Says:

    The City has been working to prevent the breach of this protective layer for over two years. The Wellington Water Watchers have also been actively involved on this issue.

  4. kfarbridge Says:

    City staff will be meeting (again) with Ministry representatives this month.

  5. Mark Goldberg Says:

    The Lake Erie Source Protection Committee passed this motion in February 2010:

    THAT the Lake Erie Region Source Protection Committee recommend to
    the Minister of the Environment that Regulation 287/07 section 1.1
    subsection (1) be amended to add excavation that breaches the aquitard
    protecting a municipal drinking water supply aquifer to the list of activities
    that are prescribed drinking water threats.

    The motion was proposed specifically in response to the DoLime situation. River Valley Developments is owned by Carson Reid, the same company that were convicted under the Migratory Birds Act after clear-cutting a stand of forest in the southeast of Guelph. They have now created a hole in the aquitard, the protective rock layer overlying our precious groundwater. Instead of immediately acting to plug the hole, they have put forward a management plan which proposes extending the hole by removing an additional 5 m of rock. The Provincial Ministry of the Environment has apparently approved this plan, despite the Lake Erie Source Protection Committee’s recommendation and over the protests of the City’s hydrogeologist.

    As the Mayor mentioned, the Wellington Water Watchers have been very active on this issue over the past 20 months. We have watched this situation evolve and asked questions about the process at every step. We have recently been told that the MOE and MNR are planning to meet soon and discuss this matter further. But in the meantime, the blasting at DoLime continues. This quarry is over 100 years old and an awful lot of aggregate has been removed from it over the last century. Perhaps it’s time for Carson Reid to do the right thing and properly plug the hole in the aquitard then close the quarry.

    Mark Goldberg
    Wellington Water Watchers

  6. Melissa Dean Says:

    I regret I am more familiar with the Melancthon Township issue and sent several letters to various poohbahs. What can we now do about DoLime? Mark, has your organization developed a plan of action? Have other individuals or groups strategies they are working on? How can I help?

    Melissa Dean

  7. Mike Darmon Says:

    If the Earth was flat instead of round, and all the surface layers were of uniform thickness ,life would be a lot simpler for the operators of the Dolime quarry .But alas the Earth is round and layers are uneven as was made clear when the Ontario Geological Survey specialist in Southern Ontario aquifers visited the quarry several years ago. .Guelph obtains most of it’s water from the Gasport aquifer,a rock layer with lots of tiny and not so tiny spaces and fractures that store and transmit water
    What was observed at the quarry is that our supply aquifer bends in an upward direction in some areas of the quarry.It is protected from contamination by a dense protective aquitard layer above, but this layer also varies in thickness and bends .The problem is that the operator has a license to excavate to a certain depth, and because the aquifer bends up above this level it is now exposed from excavation in a small area.
    The second problem is that the quarry will become a lake after closure of the quarry. When the dewatering pumps are turned off , the lake level will rise and,the downward flow of lake water , possibly contaminated from bacteria and viruses -which can live up to 2 years in the groundwater system- could contaminate our aquifer.
    Under pressure from Mayor Farbridge and Wellington Water Watchers(WWW), the Ministry of the Environment recommended that Dolime do further testing of the site to gain more detailed knowledge of the geology of the quarry.The quarry was also required to present a management plan that would protect groundwater quality.
    To their credit ,Dolime has hired a consultant and done further testing to comply with the Ministry.The consultant has come up with a Management Plan, and one component of the Plan is to construct a Wash Pond Perimeter Structure . Fine clay- like material from aggregate washing ,will settle on the floor of the pond in the area where the aquifer has been exposed.These “fines” are supposed to seal the holes and fractures in the aquifer.
    In order to do this they are using the flat earth/layer theory .
    .To construct this pond they will first excavate down to the license limit -possibly further exposing the aquifer ,in order to create a level surface for the fines to settle evenly .
    The City’s consultant does not agree that this method will work . WWW have many concerns ,and with the expert advice of Dr Hugh Whiteley,WWW has sent questions to the Ministry asking whether performance requirements have been set for the Management Plan and whether the Ministry has assurance that these performance requirements can be met by the Plan to protect the aquifer .
    The consultant for Dolime has done additional borehole testing, and when this information is released we will get a better picture of the geology of the Quarry.This may show that material can safely be extracted in some areas.
    We discovered that the Earth was round a long time ago.We have gained much more knowledge about geology and groundwater ,but Government regulation needs to catch up with this knowledge to protect our pristine groundwater sources now, and for future generations.We should not further expose our aquifer and use the best proven methods to seal the damage already done.
    Mike Darmon is a member of WWW

  8. Gabriella Currie Says:

    What is the best way for us to show support in the city’s efforts to stop Dolime and protect our water supply?

  9. ksulliva Says:

    Hi Gabriella,
    The best way to show support is to write to your MPP, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources. Guelph’s MPP is Liz Sandals and she can be reached at:

    173 Woolwich Street
    Guelph, ON N1H 3V4
    Tel: (519) 836-4190
    Fax: (519) 836-4191
    Email: lsandals.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

    Regards,
    Kate Sullivan
    Mayor’s Office

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