The “PITFALLS” of Recycling

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

To anyone who attended the hastily scheduled ARA reviews, it was abundantly clear that the new “catch phrase” from the aggregate industry and many others is “RECYCLE“!

This should be a good thing….right?

Well, be careful what you wish for.

As recent pit applications have identified, the aggregate industry wants to turn gravel pits into Industrial Operation Zones! And forget about notions of “interim use” and “rehabilitation”.

This will mean more trucks, more grinding, more crushing, more fugitive emissions (them’s fancy words for crap in the air), more noise and serious risks of groundwater contamination from leaching.

Asphalt residue, roofing shingles, concrete, steel and other materials, possibly contaminated with all sorts of unidentified waste, could be coming to a neighbourhood near you, all courtesy of the Ministry of (Un?)Natural Resources.

Are you ready for a cocktail of ‘heavy metals’? Can you say ALUMINUM, CADMIUM, CHROMIUM, ARSENIC, NICKEL and SILICA … and who knows what else?

Is now the time to contact your local councillors and city Officials to have them establish proper standards and monitoring requirements should “recycling” become your new neighbour?

Recycling is great, but maybe it should be all about “location, location, location“!


Risk vs. Reward

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

I had an acquaintance who worked for a large international airline. He also had a wife who he met on his trips to Jamaica.

Being a bit of an entrepreneur, my friend looked at his job position, reviewed his Jamaican contacts, and contemplated the possibility of starting his own import company.

There was a slight problem though, the commodity was cocaine!

But my acquaintance had a business mind and he looked at the “risk vs. reward” ratio.

He determined that he could illegally import cocaine and pocket $250,000 to $500,000 per year. And if he was caught, he would serve a maximum of three to 5 years in the “pen.”

He concluded the “RISK” was worth the “REWARD” and acted accordingly.

This is a typical calculation made daily in virtually all businesses. Even in Ontario aggregate operations.

One of the ‘risks’ encountered in the aggregate industry is that you might get caught falsifying your annual ‘self-monitoring’ report.

So, what would prevent any pit operator from falsifying their self-monitoring report?

The short answer is…nothing.

As in the case of Crain Construction, whose infractions are alleged to have caused the death of Ken Cressey’s wife, their years of operating illegally netted them thousands in profit, with virtually nothing as a penalty.

The “REWARD” far outweighed the “RISK”

So, do we need changes?

Quite frankly, the coziness between the Ontario Aggregate Industry and the MNR gives me a rash!

How about we abolish all MNR inspectors and hire a reputable outside agency to monitor the pits and quarries in Ontario?

Any situation that arises showing influence peddling from either side should be severely dealt with. Immediate termination of the inspector and legal charges for breach of trust should be the outcome. The Pit or Quarry operator must face substantial fines and the closure of their pit or quarry, with the possibility of permanently losing their license to operate.

Only when the “time fits the crime” will we see truly accountable compliance in Ontario pit and quarry operations.

Oh yeah, my cocaine-smuggling acquaintance, he got caught, but served no time!

MN “R” You Kidding Me?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.


According to the Ministry of Natural Resources web site, that’s how many pits and quarries we had operational in Ontario in 2010. Many more have been added since. And, according to the MNR’s own data system, ALPS, we have more than 60 years of aggregate supply available to us in already-existing pits. Some experts, like Dr. Larry Jensen, put the number even higher, at 120 years!

But, surprisingly, based on the MNR’s own 2010 statistics, the Ontario Aggregate Industry as a whole only committed 7 offenses in 2010 that resulted in a financial penalty or fine. That’s down from an incredibly low 22 offenses in 2006.

The offenses-to-pits ratio didn’t even register on my calculator. It was just too low.

So we’re wondering … Is our Aggregate Industry on a par with or, dare we say, have a safety and adherence performance rating better than other large industrial operations, like say….NASA?

Well, when you think about it, NASA uses huge bulky industrial types of equipment to reach their objectives through brute strength, while risking the lives and livelihoods of the people around them due to their lack of an exact science to accomplish their chosen tasks, and without the support of the people whose lives they disrupt and possible destroy.

Oh, wait a minute…. I have them confused. That’s the Ontario Aggregate Industry I’m describing.

So…how is it possible that the MNR inspectors, who are paid by the citizens of Ontario to protect us from industrial mismanagement and the carelessness of such large operations, hand out far fewer then one infraction each in the space of an entire year?

Could it be they don’t actually get out to inspect the pits? And even when they do get around to an inspection (like once every 5 years or more) they give advance warning so the site can be ‘sanitized’.

Could it be they are quite content giving warnings instead of punishing the misdeeds? I mean, no sense rocking the proverbial “gravy” boat!

Could it be they are too cozy with the Industry they are supposed to be monitoring?

We’re talking about “OUR” inspectors checking massive holes in the ground, blasted and dug by heavy equipment for the purpose of moving thousands of tons of aggregate, while spewing toxic dust and small particles into the air, and potentially contaminating our water supply.

7 offenses in 6500 pits and quarries for 2010 !!! No kidding.

This is not NASA rocket science you know!

MORE What If …?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

Could “Minimum Haulage = Responsible Aggregate Planning in Ontario?

Surprisingly, I believe it can.

I am not an expert in this field, and therefore cannot place a number on minimum tonnage, but I’m sure it could be done.

Our current system allows the Aggregate industry to open as many pits and quarries as possible, basically “banking them” for the future. I believe the Aggregate companies want as many pits and quarries approved as possible now, in case environmental rules change in the future, making it harder to get approvals. So….they are racing the environment clock!

But, in the not so distant future:

What if” a pit cannot meet Minimum Haulage requirements for the specified period? … It would get decommissioned and rehabilitated.

What if” an Aggregate operator wanted to open an additional pit, but couldn’t because that would reduce one of his existing pits below the minimum haulage amount, forcing a closure.

What if” Aggregate companies actually had to compete for their business in Ontario, reducing prices to ensure maintaining their minimum quantity!

What if” the economic success of a pit had more to do with selling their product in a competitive market instead of the current “fixed game”.

What if” the costs of opening a pit become a bigger factor due to the reduced profit the companies might get from their product on an open market. Could $115 million be justified to fight for approval of the Rockfort Quarry, for example, or would the operators move on up the road to a more viable location. Maybe an area with less population, an area that does not need an unproven, and thus risky, “grout wall” and an area that does not require drastic changes to the roads in order to transport the stone?

What if” the Ontario Government was able to buy aggregate product cheaper than they are right now due to a truly competitive market place?

What if” the Aggregate companies actually had to plan their supplies

around what was really NEEDED?

What if” the sky was green?

What if” candy grew on willow trees?

What if” we had a responsible representative government that could actually make this change in the Aggregate Resources Act?

What If … ?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

Do you remember playing the “what if” game as a child. You know…What if the sky was green? …What if candy grew on Willow trees? …What if we had responsible representative government?

Ah, those times of innocents!

Well, “what if” pits and quarries were closed if they did not meet a minimum tonnage per year? Maybe three years in a row. If they miss their minimum tonnage , the pit would automatically be decommissioned, given a grace period for possible reapplication, and then rehabilitated?

It just might address that “dirty” little word in our Provincial Policy Statement that the Ontario Aggregate Industry does not like to hear …“NEED”!

If the market, or performance, dictates that the pit is not “NEEDED”, then close it down.

What business, other than Ontario Aggregate, can operate on a profit model where “NEED” is not a requirement?

Could you see Ford making an extra 10,000 cars every year if they were not “NEEDED”?

Would Wal*Mart open one of their Super Centers in “Buck Tooth Junction”, population 12, if their business model showed that it wasn’t ‘needed’ and this would be a financial disaster?

Only in Ontario!

Can you imagine the Aggregate Lobbyists’ glee when the PPS came out stating that the “NEED” for their product would not have to be considered before they turned huge chunks of Ontario into holes?

Picture a plush office where cigar smoke hangs, 2 cognac glasses rest on a heavy leather bound desk top. Three Gucci suits talking amongst themselves; I can hear their conversation now:

Lobbyist 1: I can’t believe they bought that clap trap about not proving the “NEED” for our product. I put it on our list as a joke!

Lobbyist 2:  Ha! and they put my ‘close to market’ stuff in too! What dupes!

Lobbyist 3: Well Brothers. It just goes to show that the Beatles were wrong. Money can buy you love!

… to be continued

Alchemy … sort of

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

In ancient times Alchemists were said to be able to turn lead into gold.

Never happened.

But there is a modern day equivalent, only in reverse. It’s a process by which gold is turned into lead, figuratively speaking.

Lots of people invest the largest part of their life’s savings into their home, often the place where they want to retire and spend their ‘Golden Years’. Then along comes a new superhighway just beyond their back fence, or an airport expansion nearby, or a hydro corridor, or a waste disposal site, or any number of what are technically referred to as ‘disamenities’.

In many cases such changes in a neighbourhood result in drastically reduced property values.

But only in some cases are owners compensated. A new highway, for example, will result in a lowered property tax assessment as a result of the significantly decreased desirability of such a property.

However, in the case of a new or expanded aggregate pit or quarry operation, no adjustment or compensation occurs. Millions of dollars of a homeowner’s equity can simply turn to dust overnight. The homeowner’s gold is effectively converted to lead.

But there’s still gold to be had, for the companies who are operating the pits. They will make millions, while the helpless homeowners around them lose their collective shirts, pants, and life savings.

Mind you, since the pit or quarry will probably cut their life expectancy in half, who needs savings!

Just ask Ken Cressey at: