Friday, November 20, 2009

Curb Braeside Quarry asphalt plant noise, odour, say neighbours

Member explains residents'fears regarding a temporary asphalt plant in the Braeside Quarry to McNab-Braeside council. john carter
"We hope council will take steps to remove this danger from our midst."
A delegation of about 15 people living near the Braeside Quarry shared their anger about emissions from the temporary asphalt plant with McNab-Braeside councillors Nov. 10.

In a presentation to the township’s planning advisory committee, Mark Popiel, speaking for the residents group FACT-MB, urged council to take action to curb noise and smells coming from the plant.

“Stop the abuse,” he said. “Some of your constituents are suffering. We fear for our personal health and safety.

“We hope council will take steps to remove this danger from our midst.”

At the end of the meeting, which was also attended by representatives of the quarry owners (Miller Paving), several residents asked what council could do about the plant, which they maintain is adversely affecting their lifestyle and threatening aquifer water quality.

While stressing that environmental issues are the jurisdiction of the provincial ministry of environment, councillors did say they will direct their bylaw enforcement officer Jim McBain to investigate possible noise and Sunday operation violations, which are covered by a township bylaw.

Residents complained that although the township has indicated to the MOE its noise bylaw prohibits Sunday opening, the plant was operating on at least one Sunday (Oct. 18). Noise violators can be fined up to $1,000.

Popiel charged the noise and odour from the asphalt plant is preventing people living nearby from sleeping and socializing outside. He said residents are frustrated because the MOE is not enforcing the company’s certificate of approval or responding to neighbours’ complaints.

While the MOE says most asphalt plants are located in quarries, it isn’t taking into account the Braeside quarry is unique, Popiel said. The surrounding geology means any spills at the quarry will flow into nearby wells, he added

Mayor Mary Campbell, who had toured the quarry with other councillors earlier in the day, asked what Miller would have to do to satisfy neighbours’ concerns. There are ways to cut down on the noise, she noted.

“I can’t see how you can make this safe,” said Popiel. “It (quarry) is not a safe place to locate a bakery, let alone an asphalt plant. It’s probably the worst place … putting chemicals and blasting together is like … gas and fire.”

Several residents picked up on that theme, with Mike Battison arguing having an asphalt plant “practically sitting in our backyards” is a “recipe for disaster.” The setbacks are “ludicrous,” he said.

Coun. Jim McGregor said the residents have legitimate concerns, but they seem to be beyond council’s control and areas of expertise. Campbell agreed, but said it is council’s role to seek out solutions to problems affecting its ratepayers. “Asking questions for ratepayers, that’s our job,” she said.

Campbell said it is frustrating that residents are coming up against contradictory policies and regulations. While the ministry of natural resources identifies the threats to the area’s environment, Miller’s is likely in compliance with MOE regulations, she said.

She suggested the township call on the ministry of municipal affairs for advice on how to interpret the various regulations. Council needs to know its options in its efforts to ensure rights of both industry and residents are protected, she said.

Township CAO Noreen Mellema suggested that residents should continue to direct their environomental complaints to the MOE and said that council could ask the ministry for its compliance reports being made in response to residents’ complaints.

“Are you telling us that if people are getting fumes and exhaust and can’t go outside, the township can’t do anything?” asked Tara Teske.

“The MOE looks after the environmental concerns … we can’t overrule them,” said Deputy Mayor Elmer Raycroft. However, “I hope you work with us (to try to resolve) the issue,” he added.

Marybeth Pidgeon said residents realize there are multiple layers of jurisdiction, but they wanted all councillors to realize what they are going through. The township should do something about the plant operating on Sundays, she added.

Jennifer Lapierre urged council to post the noise bylaw on the website and tighten up the process of logging complaints.

Sean Burton said council should realize the plant is causing “big problems” and take that into account when dealing with the company’s application for a permanent asphalt plant.

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