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?

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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”?

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!

What, Me Worry?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.
Do you know “MAD Magazine” with their fearless poster child Alfred E. Neuman and his motto, “What, Me Worry?”

Every month, MAD Magazine has featured Alfred’s fiery red hair, car door ears and goofy smile on the cover of their magazine, and it is something to look forward to.

Alfred-E-Neuman
Little did we know that some of our aggregate operators would pick up his “What, Me worry?” motto as a way of doing business!

You want proof?

Just consider the “Aggregate Vehicle Survey Analysis” performed on behalf of the Ontario government in 2012.

38.3% to 47.7% of the 434 aggregate trucks inspected “exceeded their allowable gross weight”, while another 33.7% exceeded the enforcement tolerance!

That’s more than half of the aggregate trucks on the road running with disregard for the safety of others! You know … “What, Me Worry?”

It’s nice to see the Ontario government actually doing something constructive about aggregate trucks. Now they have the information…..what are they going to do about it?

But a more important question is…Why did this not come up sooner? Maybe in the yearly “Self Monitoring Checklist” or possibly on the “Truck Weight Numbers” collected by each individual operator.

What is a driver to do when he gets on the weight scale situated at each pit or quarry operation and he finds he is overloaded? It seems that too often he carries on with business as normal. “What … Me Worry?”

Do the operators actually report that the truck left loaded with extra tonnes of product? Do they record the maximum allowable weight on their reports?

“If” reports are falsified it would be paramount to tax evasion or fraud, as they would not be paying the people of Ontario sufficient levies for their haulage.

If the driver leaves the pit or quarry knowing he is overloaded, and he has an accident causing death … would he and the owner be charged with manslaughter? Or is it just “What … Me Worry?” again?

So…why would an operator allow overloaded trucks on the road?  … Is it MONEY?

Well, duh.

More weight per truck means less truck travel to get the product to market, saving fuel and wages. HUGE MONEY! The technology to accurately weigh each load is widespretruck2ad. There are no excuses!

And, as with other broken rules and regulations at the MNR, we suspect the profits from cheating far outweigh the penalties. Could it be the MNR barely have a “bark” and definitely have no “bite” when it comes to enforcement of their rules and regulations?

So what’s the attitude of the aggregate operators when it comes to:
The safety of our children?
The safety of the rest of the road users of Ontario?
The damage to the roads that our tax dollars must constantly repair?

We would guess it would be “What, me worry?”

Alfred E. Neuman would be proud!

NOTE:
Many reports and documents come across our desk. We appreciate the information we get, so please feel free to send us more!

Fraud and Deception in Disneyland?

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

 We’re told that in Disneyland there’s a place called the ‘Magical Kingdom’. It’s where wonderful things happen – where wishes and dreams come true. Who knew that here in Ontari-ari-ario we have our own version?

 It’s near Palgrave in the north-east corner of Caledon. This place, where the magic happens, could be called ‘Brockland’ because Brock Aggregates owns the Tottenham Pit. The magic appears to happen whenever reality doesn’t coincide with Brock’s wishes. Not long ago, when Brock decided they wanted permission to nearly double the size of their ‘footprint’ and dig out more sand and gravel from below the water table, they were faced with opposition from concerned neighbours with whom they ‘share’ the water source. Neighbours pointed out that previous site plans and hydrogeological studies showed underground water flow directions that might mean a threat to their private wells.

 So here’s where wishful thinking and magic occurs. First, Brock wished that opponents to their dream would just vanish.

 Didn’t happen.

 So then they got out their magic wand … errr, wallet … and presto! all the arrows on the site plan that showed the directions of underground water flow magically changed direction! Where formerly the arrows pointed in somewhat natural directions, and towards neighbouring residences, they now conveniently changed direction, sometimes totally REVERSED direction, to point away from all the neighbours’ wells.

 waterflowbefore2

waterflowafter2

 How can this be?

 Well haven’t you ever heard of Fantasyland? It happens every day! Take a drive; take a look; wish upon a star! You won’t believe your eyes when you see the magical transformations at Bibbidi Bobbidi Brockland !

brockland

Imagination … Do you have any?

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

imagination

 

Can you ‘imagine’ a ‘nation’

–   where Ontario’s Minister of Health, Hon. Deb Matthews, was actually ‘honourable’ enough to do something to enforce the legislation she is responsible for? Imagine if those thousands of seniors suffering grievous abuse in extended care homes, and their families, could actually be protected and obtain justice when the expected care isn’t provided. See: http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/nursing-home-residents-at-risk-w5-investigation-reveals-startling-national-statistics-1.1149215

–   where the government actually respected the fact the ‘Crown Land’ is owned by the people of Canada, and then realistically consulted the ‘owners’ before selling or leasing the use of Crown Lands to favored private applicants to enable their friends to make many millions in profits? See: http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2012/12/16/crown-land-up-for-wind-destruction/

–  where our Ministry of Environment (MOE) did more than ‘pass the buck’ when asked by worried residents to investigate and remedy a toxic fuel spill like the one at the Tottenham Pit near Palgrave? See: http://www.caledonenterprise.com/news-story/1373538-silence-follows-contradictions-at-tottenham-pit/

–  where the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) stopped denying and dragging their feet regarding the serious negative impacts on property values near wind farms and open pit aggregate mines? See: http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2013/02/08/mpac-waiting-on-turbine-study/

–  where the MNR stopped issuing aggregate extraction licenses to operators who are clearly not in compliance with regulations? See: http://www.caledonenterprise.com/opinion-story/1372539-ministry-should-deny-pit-application/

– where an elected representative, such as Chris Bentley, and his political party, would be unable to deny responsibility for egregious abuse of public funds, and then evade legal consequences by proroguing and resigning from the legislature? See: http://www.lfpress.com/2013/02/08/chris-bentley-resigning-as-mpp

–    where an accountable and transparent Ontario Hydro would cease collecting a  ‘Debt Retirement Charge’ after the debt is paid off? See: http://www.thestar.com/business/2011/12/28/hydro_debt_retirement_charge_reporting_proposed_in_ontario.html

–    where there would be the same regulations for both the ‘ruled’ and the ‘rulers’? For example is it OK for a Bald Eagle’s nest to be destroyed by the MNR, while private citizens are fined $10,000 for removing trees ‘near’ a nest? See: http://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/2013/01/09/mpp-wants-answers-on-eagle-eviction

–    where there would be some way for the beleaguered taxpayers of Ontario to recover $millions from the likes of Chris Mazza of ORNGE infamy? See: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/02/09/chris_mazza_of_ornge_got_46_million_in_two_years.html

We could go on.

What do all these anecdotes, and related LINKS, have in common? Can you shout out loud things like: ‘waste’, ‘corruption’, ‘scandal’, ‘cronyism’, ‘incompetence’, and __________, and__________, and _________ , … you fill in the blanks!

Unless we raise our voices and demand ethical governments and bureaucracies, we are sure to see more of the same. Don’t you think it’s time we demanded ‘response-ability’ to go with responsibility?

Or are we imagining things?

Rage Against the Machine

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

We received another provocative email the other day from some friends of ours. We love it when we get emails that get our blood boiling. Keep ‘em coming!

It seems that although the legislature was shut down by McGuinty, some of his Ministries are still hard at work ignoring the ordinary people of Ontario.

Minister Gravelle from the MNR has decreed, with full support from the Aggregate Industry, (and now the Niagara Escarpment Commission!*) that recycling is just a rubber stamp away from your local pit and quarry.

(*You can reference the changes made by the NEC in this link, pages 9 and 10.)

This change is being justified as ‘something the public demands’.

Recycling of aggregate materials is supposed to reduce the “need” for more pits producing virgin material. But when ordinary citizens ask if more pits are actually ‘needed’ they are told that they simply can’t ask such questions … it’s against the law according to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)!

So first, let’s review some facts, and how our now-absentee masters are being led by the nose down the gravel road …

1.      We have over 6,500 pits and quarries in operation in Ontario right now. Allowing recycling is supposed to reduce consumption of ‘virgin’ materials. So do you suppose this might stop the opening of new pits and quarries? Hardly. The PPS is under review, and must change to take into consideration our current abundant supply of materials. But asking the ‘do we need more’ question is still prohibited!

2.      Recycling is an industrial operation that does not belong in a mining environment.

3.      Because of the potential for mis-handling of the various materials, recycling will require oversight, something the MNR has proven they will not, or cannot do, given their current mandate and personnel resources. So again, it will be left up to the aggregate mine operators to police themselves, something many of them have repeatedly done very poorly.

4.      Dust control in pits and quarries is always an issue. Do we really believe that increasing the polluting fumes from machinery, and toxic dust from the operations is a good idea? Processing more material – some of it possibly very toxic – in facilities and under conditions that were never intended for such, seems simply foolish, or worse.

5.      Leachates from asphalt and other contaminated materials will make their way into our water table. It is unavoidable when you drop this tainted rubble two meters from the aquifer, on porous soil.

6.      Furthermore, who will be inspecting the materials coming in for recycling? We know the MNR inspectors can’t do the job. Then who? Where are the regulations and rules designed for this new policy? It’s all left up to the Aggregate Resources Act, which was never intended to deal with industrial recycling facilities.

7.      When applying for a license to open a new pit or quarry, the operator and MNR agree that it will be an ‘interim land use’. Adding a recycling operation will obviously increase the life span of a pit. It seems this creates another way to extend an operation indefinitely and avoid rehabilitation, virtually forever.

To characterize the push for recycling as something the Ontario public wants is a bit of a stretch.

Does ‘the public’ want more recycling?   …. Absolutely.

Do they want expanded industrial operations, with more huge trucks coming and going from their neighbourhood pit forever?  …. Absolutely not!

So we’ve asked just how it’s been determined that industrial recycling in gravel pits represents ‘the public’s wishes’. The only answer we’ve heard is that there are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and special interest groups voicing their opinions.

Well, DUH … is it any surprise that the Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA) might lobby the government, claiming to represent ‘the public interest’?  But …What about input from groups like Gravel Watch, who more genuinely represent the public interest – and WITHOUT the taint of ties to Industry! Have they been heard? Apparently NOT.

concreterubble2

Industrial recycling operations should be located in industrial areas, not in open pit mines that are often located in rural residential areas.

But recycling is just one part of a bigger picture. It must be implemented with a comprehensive and well thought out plan. As it impacts the future of aggregate mining, it must deal with questions of ‘need’, resource life-cycle management, transportation, alternative materials, and full cost financial accounting . To hand recycling responsibility to the MNR and their aggregate industry friends without such thorough consideration is dangerously short-sighted.

Once again, the MNR and Minister Gravelle appear to have demonstrated a lack of understanding of their portfolio responsibilities, and once again, the aggregate tail seems to be wagging the dog.

In short, the MNR’s handling of this issue seems superficial and inadequate, serving the wishes of their cronies at the expense of ordinary citizens!

Is this acceptable? What can be done? Are ordinary citizens willing to do anything about it? Who owns this province anyway? … You? … or the politicians and their ‘insider’ friends?

lobbyists4

So, since you don’t have preferred access to the decision-makers, we suggest it’s time to call, email and write your MPP, to tell them that weakening the Niagara Escarpment protections is completely unacceptable.

Call, email and write Minister Gravelle and all opposition critics. Try to be civil, which might be difficult, and tell them it is time the aggregate industry stopped dictating policy in Ontario – starting with this recycling-in-pits fiasco.

Call, email and write your local newspapers and news web sites. Tell them these sorts of policies are bad for our province.

It’s time for a concerted effort to send the message to OUR elected officials that we will be Silent No More.

After all, they are supposed to be working for US!