Gravel Trucks Revisited

Notes from a reader …accident6

In your Monday August 11, 2014 posting you reviewed, fairly extensively, the dangers due to over loading of gravel trucks.

Well, it seems that Mathew Strader from the Enterprise newspaper in Caledon has now placed the spot light clearly on this “disaster in waiting”. Read the article in its entirety here:

http://www.caledonenterprise.com/news-story/4767471-weight-compliance-issues-abound-in-aggregate-industry/

However, the problems remain the same …

Stone-walling at all levels of government.

Mathew could not pry the full report from the MTO.

Mathew could not get any support from the current Caledon council.

In fact, Allan Thompson, who is currently running for Mayor in Caledon, suggested Greg Sweetnam, vice president at James Dick Construction Ltd. as someone to speak to for answers.

Now there are a couple of problems with this statement.

1) As an elected official, and mayoral candidate, and so duly charged with public safety by his position as a Regional Councillor, how is it possible for Mr. Thompson to not have a very firm position on this extremely important issue? He is part of the Regional Task Force recommending rural residential Mountainview Road and Horseshoe Hill Road as heavy truck haul routes, but seems to have no concern, and definitely no position on truck safety.
2) And, in addition, Mr. Thompson has been made aware of this report, and been questioned numerous times by a Caledon resident over the past 14 months, and has not answered.

So now Mr. Thompson defers his answer on the safety of Caledon citizens back to the operators responsible for these dangers in the first place? What a joke!

Caledon residents came to expect this type of avoidance from Mayor Morrison, but now coming from a new mayoral candidate?

How’s that for ‘leadership’?

According to Mr. Woozageer from the MTO:
“Any overweight vehicle is a concern. Overloading vehicles has immediate and long-term effects on road safety and infrastructure,” he wrote in an email. “Compliance with Ontario’s weight requirements has been an issue for aggregate haulers for many years. Over the years, MTO has implemented several changes related to vehicle weights and dimensions that should have addressed these issues, however, overloading with the aggregate industry continues. The ministry’s main concern is the safety of all those using our highways.”

So…The MTO states: ‘major problem, big concern.’

Allan Thompson states: ‘I don’t know.’

There has to be a better choice for Mayor in Caledon. What about that Sinclair guy?

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Only the Shadow Knows

Most of us were not born at the time “The Shadow” prowled the weekly radio station.

Shadow2But most of us have heard the expression,
“Only the Shadow knows.”

Well, in Caledon it seems that it’s not so much that the Shadow knows, but that the people who are making the decisions are “In the Shadows!”

Let’s take the “Peel Strategic Goods Movement Plan” as an example.

The apparently inept Councillor Allan Thompson, who now wants to be Mayor, and his partner in this potential ‘crime’, Councillor Richard Whitehead, were Caledon representatives at the Regional task force table to discuss the potential new haul routes that will have gravel trucks belching their exhaust through the rural residential areas of the fair town of Caledon.

After years of backroom conversations (since at least 2004) between all the “stakeholders” (except the residents who happen to live on those roads and have most at stake), the Region of Peel and the Town of Caledon presented their findings at an information meeting last Spring.

According to two people who were in attendance, the statement was emphatic that Horseshoe Hill would NOT BE A HAUL ROUTE despite the “recommendation” of the task force! Similarly, another ‘recommended’ route – Mountainview Rd.- was said to be highly unlikely. This information came from councillor Richard Paterak, who was in attendance.

Since then … NOT SO SURE!

It seems the information brought back from Caledon’s other-worldly elected ‘scholars’ may have been “lost in translation”, or maybe they were just poorly informed, or perhaps they just poorly informed their electors.

Horseshoe Hill is still on the table as a possible haul route, and is undergoing an extensive, and expensive, feasibility study.

Is it just a coincidence that the biggest benefactors of this new haul route would be Jame Dick Construction, who owns the planned pit at Highway 9 and Horseshoe Hill Rd., as well as other haulers who are presently stuck with Airport Rd. through Caledon East if they want to avoid the weigh scales on Hwy 10?

According to the emails we have seen bandied about, there was no representation from Caledon’s aggregate industry at the Regional meetings on the proposed haul routes; just Town Councillors Thompson and Whitehead! But it’s certain that these “developer friendly” councillors were well aware of what James Dick’s preference would be for a new truck route to the GTA!

Were the residents who live on Horseshoe Hill Rd. or Mountainview Rd. made aware that their roads could soon be infested with heavy trucks hauling from Highway 9 to Olde Baseline Rd, and beyond to Mayfield Rd. and 410 Hwy.?
No! Their opinions and desires seem to be inconsequential to the current Caledon council and their Regional cohorts.

According to the Caledon Council mind-trust, there is only a 1% chance that Horseshoe Hill could be turned into a new haul route.
However, we should also consider that Dixie Road all the way north to where it meets Horseshoe Hill is already a Regional road that it is now definitely heavy truck worthy, ever since renovations a couple of years ago.
And, is it just a coincidence that the stop signs at Dixie/Horseshoe Hill and Olde Base Line have been replaced by the first, and we believe only, roundabout intersection in Caledon, designed to facilitate traffic movement?
We’d guess that the decision to turn Horseshoe Hill into a haul route was made three years ago, and the money spent on Dixie and the roundabout are proof that the Region and Town have already decided that Horseshoe Hill will be a haul route. All they need now is a ‘study’ that gives them a green light to do what they’ve clearly said they want to do.

The residents hope we’re wrong.

However, as the saying goes, “Only the Shadow Knows” for sure!

Or maybe we should ask Allan Thompson and Richard Whitehead what’s been happening “In the Shadows”!

The ‘CLOSE TO MARKET’ Mantra

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

We’re calling b*!!$@!t.

A recent news release from the Aikensville pit applicant, Capital Paving Inc. stated:

With already constrained government budgets and the continued loss of good quality, close to market aggregate reserves, it will be extremely difficult and costly to Ontario taxpayers to repair the province’s aging infrastructure if aggregate is required to be sourced from farther away”

 According to the State of the Aggregate Resources of Ontario Study (SAROS):

Historically, the most common reason for incorporating “close to market” policies has been to ensure aggregate materials were available to the areas of need as economically as possible.”

 The “close to market” mantra also appears in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and Green Belt Act.

 But what exactly are the implications? …and…Does it really matter?

 In a conversation with a person in the Ministry of Transport a few years back a curious citizen asked a question. They wanted to know what the Ministry, or should we say the taxpayers, were paying for gravel for our road construction projects.

The response was that the questioner didn’t know what he was talking about.

The Ministry rep proceeded to explain that they do not get a breakdown of costs for a job, but just a quote to complete the entire project.

 The lowest price usually wins the bid.

 So, the Ministry gives no consideration as to where the aggregate comes from, whether sourced near or far!

 When bidding on a project, a Contractor considers many other variables that can produce a higher, or conversely, a lower quote.

 Variables such as:

Are the workers unionized?

What type of equipment is required?

Does the proposed project fit with other jobs underway?

What profit margin is the operator willing to work with?

Whether the contractor owns his own pit to pull resources from?

And so on….

 So, in essence, we could have aggregate material for a ministry job traveling past competing pits that are closer to the project, because the supplying pit operator has decided to provide a better price, and accept lower profits than a “close to market” operator.

 The aggregate industry pushes the “close to market” agenda.

But do they have any evidence that it actually benefits the taxpayer who pays?

Does it really save money … or just pad profits?

Does it reduce air pollution?

Is there any independent study showing the savings from using “close to market” materials?
Is there an Industry study showing that “close to market” is being utilized advantageously?

Would a contractor supply close to market materials if they were more expensive than materials he could purchase cheaper at a pit further away?

 Unless the Ministry of Transportation actually enforces “close to market” usage, the entire concept becomes a joke!

 

trucktraffic

 

So, should the Ministry mandate and legally enforce “close to market” usage?

 That would create quite a conundrum!

 By legally mandating “close to market” usage, the Ministry would be reducing competition by forcing the purchase of aggregate product from a smaller number of producers. There may even be a situation where only one operator in an area produces the required product; but being “close to market” they would be the only viable source.

Which places that operator in a monopoly situation, driving the cost of product up, not down!

 The “close to market mantra” does nothing but provide a reason for Pits and Quarries to open their operations ever closer to rural residential areas of Ontario.

 Who benefits the most?

The pit and quarry operators who can push the concept that we require the product from the backyards of Ontarians with rural residences.

 Who loses?

Any homeowner who is close enough to the pit or quarry to have their health and value of their home jeopardized.

 The “close to market” mantra may sound good, but what we really need are politicians and bureaucrats who make decisions that are sound, based on studies, evidence and fact.

 Not B#$$&%$t.

 

 

Warm and Fuzzy

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

We recently came across a small magazine ad for an aggregate company.

It’s just an average “PR” piece that talks very briefly about the importance of gravel, and refers to what the company has done to accommodate a “resident Osprey” by erecting a “nesting platform.”

 It’s the kind of “blurb” that most, if not all readers scan, think “isn’t that nice” and then continue to read through the magazine with a slightly warm fuzzy feeling in the back of their brain.

 ospreyad

But perhaps we should look a little closer at this situation to see what it really stands for, and what was deliberately left out.

 1)      Do you think that that the employees at the open-pit mine site saw the Osprey circling in the air one day and decided that it would be “just peachy” if they built a platform to see if they could attract that wayward bird to nest on it? Or, do you believe that maybe this was the natural habitat for the Osprey that was obliterated by the gravel company when they decimated the land to make millions of dollars? Do you believe it was part of the MNR license agreement? Or do you believe it was done as a show of being a great corporate citizen? You decide.

2)      Were there any other considerations given to the habitat of any other bird that may have been calling this area their home? You know, Blue Jays, Robins, Blue Birds, Swallows, Sparrows, and the list goes on… Or were they not part of the license agreement?

3)      We’re not big fans of raccoons, but were there any provisions made for them? How about a fox? Maybe a porcupine? Squirrel? Chipmunk? Skunk? Deer? Pheasants? Did the oh-so-considerate operators build them any kind of accommodations, or just plough them under?

4)      We really do believe it’s awesome that there are fish in the “lake” as it is called.  But before it became a “lake” it was a “water table.” How many millions of gallons of fresh water is lost each year through evaporation due to the water table being exposed so gravel can be mined and the company can make as much money as possible in their operation? Did the company do any kind of studies to show what happens when hundreds of acres of water table are permanently disturbed? Is this exposure causing massive damage to the aquifer? We don’t see any of this in the ad.

5)      And speaking of accommodations and “building homes for all of us”, how many residential properties do aggregate companies devalue in their quest for profits? How many homeowners have lost their life savings due to a pit or quarry moving in next to them? Why was that not part of the ‘feel good’ ad?

 In conclusion, we really do believe that “when done properly” aggregate extraction can be beneficial to us all. But we have a long way to go before we reach that “platitude”

Read the ad one more time … are you still feeling warm and fuzzy?

Robin Hood, or Robbing the ‘Hood?

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

 Everyone knows the story of Robin Hood and his gang of merry men who lived in the forest of Sherwood , stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. An excellent tale that has spawned many movies, TV series and comics.

 Robin Hood has become synonymous with “selflessness”; Someone, or something, that is generous, almost to a fault.Robin_Hood

 Well, we believe that some aggregate companies want you to believe that they are generous, “Robin Hoodish” type of guys!

 Let’s face it, they sponsor fairs, winter carnivals, sporting events, have contributed to sports arenas, community centres, tree planting for school kids in their pits, and the list goes on.

 But aren’t these “things” mere “baubles and trinkets” to distract from what their Merry Men are up to?

 Do they really support a community to any great extent, or do they take from the smallest and weakest, giving a few crumbs off the table back to the community while consuming the lion’s share?

 Let’s have a look, shall we.

 breathingprotection2When was the last time you heard that an air quality report was completed for a community when a pit or quarry applied for a license? Perhaps it would be useful to know if your air is already contaminated from other sources that exist in your area, BEFORE another pit is added. Well, if you want an air quality study done, you will have to fight to get hold of someone in the government to: A) acknowledge you, B) listen to you, C) support you, and D) spend TAXPAYERS MONEY to have one completed.

 Or, YOU will have to pay to have one done yourself!

 We wonder – why is an air quality analysis not an integral part of the Application process, paid for by the aggregate company?

 Next … Many applications coming forward at this time are requesting “recycling” on the pit or quarry site. Because, ya know, recycling is green and good, just like Robin Hood!

 But … This is an activity that simply should not exist in an open pit. Shhh … let’s just not talk about possible contamination of groundwater. But, if things go as the ‘Hoods’ hope, this will be the trend for the future. And will cumulative effect studies on area aquifers be part of the requirements for a license? There have been numerous instances of wells running dry when an aggregate operation commences their work, as they disturb the water table and its natural flow. If you happen to be one of the unlucky homes whose well runs dry, you’re on your own! Unless you want to water2pay a consultant thousands of dollars and take the aggregate company to court to “prove” they were the cause of your well issues. So, it’s the old story of David and Goliath; your water flow study and lawyer against their water flow study and group of lawyers. Good luck to you! The aggregate company is not held accountable by the municipality until six wells run dry. At that time, if you push, an ‘investigation’ begins. Our guess is that it might be completed, eventually, at TAXPAYERS expense, or for lack of a better word, YOU.

 And … Why are there no levies to be paid to municipalities for transporting loads of recycling material on our roads? Why is the taxpayer, or for lack of a better word, YOU, paying for this billion dollar industry to have a free ride while destroying our roads? It’s well past the stale date on this issue. Raise the levies on the aggregate industry and include recycled material transport!

 pricereducedsign5OK, one more, and if you read this blog on a regular basis, you can see home/property values are an issue. But why should it not be one of the biggest priorities for any pit or quarry application? Why is our government not requiring Property Value Guarantees in the application process and licensing agreements. If there are no property value losses, as the aggregate companies claim, then there’s no problem and it doesn’t cost the aggregate company a nickel. If there are property values losses, such as the Hite Report identifies, then the aggregate company should “pony up”

  So you decide. Are aggregate companies the “Robin Hoods” they want us to believe they are?

 Or are they just “Robbing the ‘Hood”?

Propaganda?

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

Propaganda Definition: Manipulation of information to influence public opinion. The term comes from Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith), a missionary organization established by the Pope in 1622. Propagandists emphasize the elements of information that support their position and de-emphasize or exclude those that do not. Misleading statements and even lies may be used to create the desired effect in the public audience. Lobbying, advertising, and missionary activity are all forms of propaganda, but the term is most commonly used in the political arena. Prior to the 20th century, pictures and the written media were the principal instruments of propaganda; radio, television, motion pictures, and the Internet later joined their ranks. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes use propaganda to win and keep the support of the populace.
propaganda2
So does a delightful fun-filled event in or near a pit or quarry fit into this picture?
How would you categorize a great family outing at a water-contaminating, toxics-spewing, noise-generating, road-destroying, property-value-sucking pit?
That could be a fun day, eh?
And what if they toss in a bouncy castle for the kids?
And how about “Rocky” the gravel mascot? How “cute” is he?

bouncycastle

Do you really expect him to be handing out a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet section 3: “Hazardous Identification” form. (It describes the toxic effects of continuous exposure to gravel products.) Wouldn’t the kids be thrilled to learn that exposure to gravel toxins can cause bronchitis, emphysema, COPD, pulmonary disease, systematic lupus, erythermatosus, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis and diseases affecting the kidneys, and more?

MSDSwarning

Next, how about a few more rides!
There could be the “Road to Deafness” ride for participants of all ages. Basically, that would be a trip past an operating crusher in a loader’s bucket with some free balloons!

loaderbucketride

What’s a good time without some thrills?
Why not an “It’s free now, but you pay later” run past eighteen idling trucks? No charge for the run, but give it a few years for the toxins to do their work on your lungs for a “pay later” trip to the hospital.
Why not a bus tour through the “Deserted Neighbourhood”. That would be a trip to see all the houses that were abandoned due to the pit or quarry operating too close to someone’s home and destroying their life savings!
Now, we don’t blame those stone age entertainers for their attempts to be “good guys”. After all, even though they move into a neighbourhood, destroy property values, contaminate the air, and possibly the water, etc., who wants to be known for that??
They make millions in profit while taking millions in property values from the nearby homes.
But that’s OK! They hand out free hotdogs, balloons and hard hats!

A Shoe Has Dropped

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

It really doesn’t matter if you call it the left or the right shoe, but it came down with a huge “thud” earlier this year.

 The “thud” we are talking about was the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision that the giant Wind Turbines that keep littering our countryside (thanks to McGuinty/ Wynne), and allegedly cause serious health issues, have caused PROPERTY DE-VALUATION! That’s right, someone astute and knowledgeable actually came out and spoke the words thousands of people have been waiting to hear. Property values are negatively impacted by Wind Turbines! wind-turbine-house

Read about it here: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1151369/ontario-court-allows-lawsuits-against-wind-company-and-landowners-just-a-matter-of-time

 Here’s an excerpt from the news report:

After reviewing the evidence of appraiser Ben Lansink, the court states: “(i)n summary, the plaintiffs’ evidence shows that they have already suffered harm through a loss in property values and the corresponding interference with the use and enjoyment of their properties.”  [Para. 9] “The plaintiffs have filed expert appraisal evidence indicating that their properties are likely presently devalued by between 22 to 50 per cent or more, based upon the Proposal as presented.” [Para. 31] “… (I)n this case the court accepts that the plaintiffs have suffered, and are currently suffering, losses culminating in diminished property values …” [Para. 34, emphasis added]

 What does this mean for the citizens of Ontario who live next to pits and quarries? Well, we believe it means that the same realization regarding property values and negative health impacts around aggregate operations will soon be acknowledged.

 Why do we believe this will be the case you ask?

 The only difference we see with the two industries is timing.

 The aggregate industry has been operating with impunity for decades. Their operational methods are entrenched. They open their operations with zero “sunset clauses”, almost zero oversight, and definitely zero compensation for the homeowners living next to these mega-monstrosities! dickpit39

 It has been business as usual for far too long and it’s about time they were reined in.

 This recent court victory for the citizens of Ontario resulted from research conducted by highly qualified experts. Value studies were performed by certified specialists in their fields. The information they brought before the court could not be refuted!

 And that, friends, is what will be required to push an aggregate agenda for “fairness” forward – competent studies by professionals.

 These studies cost money! So individual citizens were called upon to support the cause. It takes many private donations for fairness to prevail! It is extremely unfortunate that the citizens of Ontario must pay extra for the fairness and protections that should come from our governments, but that seems to be the case.

 So, please, if you have the opportunity, open your wallets to help correct a long-standing injustice.

 Now, thanks to the court decision, there is momentum! Let’s ride the wind!