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”?

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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!

Watch Where You’re Going!

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

Watch out … You may not like what you find down that ‘gravel’ road.

It seems that the whole world has caught some kind of ‘green fever’. Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ hard earned money is being spent chasing green dreams. Virtually all essential industries have been hit – health, energy production, transportation, manufacturing, food production, environment, to name a few. In some few cases we are benefiting economically from new developments. In many other cases things just aren’t working out, except for the favored few who are well connected with politicians who write them massive cheques.

It is industry lobbyists who are writing the scripts and the taxpayers who are paying the shot.

One example of immediate concern to us is the influence wielded by the gravel industry. For many decades they have had their way with very little interference from those who must suffer the negative consequences of their activities. They are the ‘self-monitoring’ people who write the laws, and are in charge of enforcing them, (if you can call their feeble efforts ‘enforcement’).

A recent news article, and industry response, is a small example of where we’re going if we don’t pay close attention. The topic was ‘Recycling’ of aggregates and the journalist asked “Is Recycling Always a Good Thing?

An aggregate industry lobbyist answered with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And in the process dishonestly branded a community group as “opposing recycling” when the truth is the group – PitSense –  is emphatically in favour of recycling … but in a manner that makes SENSE! Then, when members of that group sought to refute the lobbyist’s false accusation, the newspaper refused to publish their letters.

Why is this upsetting? Could it be because the public is being lulled, with help from a media that lacks balance, into believing that the aggregate industry is only thinking of what’s best for Ontarians? Well just consider for a few minutes an example of what the folks at PitSense are concerned about …

Do YOU know what is in this massive pile of demolition debris? ….

demolition1 Does aggregate lobbyist Moreen Miller know? Does she even care, or does she just want to be paid handsomely to say it’s OK to drop this junk 6 feet away from sources of drinking water, while pretending to be doing the ‘any recycling is good’ thing? demolition2

These pictures are from the demolition site of the old Brampton Hospital. Lord only knows what toxic junk is in this mess. Do we want this stuff recycled? YES, of course. But … are people who have not demonstrated any idea of how to do it responsibly the best ones to do it? NO. Are below-water-table pits in rural residential areas a suitable location for storage and/or processing of this stuff? NOOOO!

But are there truckloads of money to be made here? HELL YES, which is why lobbyists like Moreen Miller are willing to bend the truth more than a little when representing her powerful industry in their pursuit of profits.

We repeat – let’s keep our eyes open and WATCH WHERE WE’RE GOING – or we may end up in a very nasty place.

Blowin’ in the Wind …

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

As the Dylan song says: “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind”.

This not only applies to lofty questions of peace, war and freedom, but also to more ‘down to earth’ issues.

 Why are answers to serious questions so elusive?

 

Let’s consider a few more that come to mind …

There are more then 6,500 pits and quarries in Ontario; when will we have enough?

There is somewhere between 120 to 230 years worth of gravel in our existing pits and quarries; why do we require more?

How is it possible that our Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) inspectors have issued only 8 infractions for an entire year on 6,500 pits?

Are the MNR officials and inspectors just “cheerleaders” for the aggregate industry, or are they servants of the people of Ontario?

If the air in your community contains dust and contaminants that “exceeds the Provincial criterion …” should another toxic dust-emitting pit be allowed to open in your area?

When a new pit is announced, and property tax revenues around that pit drop, who should pay the shortfall – the rest of your town, or the pit operator?

If a pit opens and the housing prices in the area drop a collective $5 million or more, should the aggregate company compensate the owners for their losses?

Does the MNR’s mandate qualify them to manage the processing of recycled materials?

Why would the MNR hire Aggregate Industry-biased consultants to write what should have been the most significant study of aggregates in our province – the “State of the Aggregate Resource in Ontario Study” (SAROS)?

Do you think that hiring Aggregate Industry friends to write SAROS is 1) a major conflict of interest, and 2) taints the entire conclusion of the report?

Why are MNR inspectors performing duties that should be handled by a fully independent agency?

Should pits and quarries be required to produce a minimum percentage of their allocated tonnage every year, or be closed?

And finally…

When are we going to learn what levels of toxic contaminants are “blowin’ in the wind” from pits and quarries?

 

What You Can’t See …

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

What You Can’t See … CAN kill you!

So you’re walking along a Railroad track and you hear a train. What do you do? Well, duh! You get out of the way, because what you hear could kill you.

The same applies when you see a gravel truck barreling towards you as you ride your bike down the road. Or a mean dog running towards you might cause you to take evasive or defensive action. Even small hazards like wasps and mosquitoes can be ‘seen’ and avoided, if you’re alert.

But what can you do about E.Coli? Can you see it coming? Or how about various viruses, bacteria, SARS, radioactivity, asbestos, etc. etc., and … crystalline silica?

What? Crystalline Silica? We know about those other things and how our health authorities have programs and methods – some more effective than others – to monitor the hazards, and even some programs to protect us.

But Crystalline Silica as a health hazard? Who knew?

Well, we do know it is classed as a Group 1 human carcinogen. We know where a lot of it originates (HINT – Gravel Pits and Quarries). We know it has other damaging cumulative health effects besides cancer. We know we can’t see it. We know that the SMALLER the particles (and even less visible) the greater the risk and damage.

And we also know that virtually nothing is being done to obtain data on the extent of this ‘War on Lungs’! No measurements or testing other than very infrequent and simple visual observation of source sites. No standards that can readily be applied by any identifiable regulatory agencies. Nobody acting responsibly!

Technologies are available, such as LIDAR (google that) to measure particle size and plume ranges. They are just not being applied.

Is it because ‘death by dust’ is often slow and painful, and symptoms can have other causes or be confused with other ailments? Or perhaps bureaucrats really don’t want to get off their butts and actually DO something about the issue because there aren’t enough citizens ‘demonstrating’ at their door? (When was the last time you got what you wanted by voting?)

You can stay off railway tracks. You can get a shot for the Flu. You can even dress for the weather. But you can’t stop breathing the Silica-laden dust if you’re anywhere near, or even miles downwind from, a gravel pit or quarry.

And it CAN kill you!

They Just Don’t Get It!

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

Friends of ours from Caledon sent us an article the other day about a depleted quarry that is due for “rehabilitation”.

The quarry owner, instead of following through on the original rehab plan – which was an integral part of the conditions for their license in the first place – wants to turn the pit into a ‘landfill’ site. (Here we wonder about what should be called a ‘landfill’ and what is a ‘dump’; or does it merely depend on the skill and vigilance of ‘inspectors’?)

The surrounding residents are dead set against this proposal.

It’s just another way of continuing to make their life hell, as more trucks will be rumbling down the road, spewing more deadly dust particles, more toxic emissions, disruptive noise, possible water contamination, etc. … basically prolonging all the miserable problems of living with a pit or a dump as a neighbour.

The local politicians have weighed in as expected.

The mayor’s main concern appears to be how much money can be made by placing a levy on the trucks. Apparently no overriding concerns for the air pollution or the possible water contamination. Zero regard for the wishes of constituents … just how the town might grab more funds.

So, is a mayor who acts this way? …
A: completely out of touch with voters
B: getting support from the aggregate industry
C: oblivious to the suffering caused by such decisions
D: simply not caring about her constituency
E: all of the above

All who are leaning towards “E” put up their hands!

However, the story gets worse…

Apparently the Town of Caledon has no rules, bylaws, regulations, etc…. to govern these landfill and recycling sites. That’s right, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA! They leave this whole ball of wax up to the incompetence that is our MNR! This is a gap in our environmental protection big enough to drive….well, a dump truck through!

However, it seems that just as long as the town gets their levies, some politicians seem to be OK with the whole thing!

And don’t you think it’s time for municipal politicians who put dollar signs ahead of citizens to pack up their bags and move on?

I’m sure there’s a job waiting for them someplace in the aggregate industry! It seems they’re qualified!

If the mayor and her council don’t care about “their people” and cannot bring themselves to “protect” them, which is their main responsibility as elected officials, then maybe they should all vacate their chairs.

As the Joker in the movie “Batman” said, “ What this town needs is an enema”

STINKY BUSINESS

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

 If it looks like a goose, walks like a goose, squawks like a goose, and poops like a goose, nobody at the MNR is going to have any idea what the hell it is!

It seems they’re too busy pointing fingers, running for cover, avoiding responsibility, buck passing, spreading confusion, playing ‘hot potato’, ignoring the obvious, covering their eyes, holding their noses, denying the stench, and just generally looking the other way while their guilty friends bury the evidence.

Look what’s happening RIGHT NOW in Palgrave!

A gravel company, Brock Aggregates, has applied for a major expansion to an existing, but long-dormant, gravel pit (known as the Tottenham Pit). Local residents who had been told that the pit was slated for ‘Estate Residential’ development, have invested millions of dollars in their homes based on those assurances.

The residents have slowed, but not stopped, the pit site plan amendment application.

But Brock is proceeding merrily along as if their expansion is ‘in the bag’! A few weeks ago they obtained a demolition permit to take down a shed, one of several structures on the property. The shed came down all right, but then they proceeded to completely demolish an old log home that some say had historical significance as one of the early settler’s log homes in the area.

THEY HAD NO PERMIT!

Apparently, they simply did not care. It appears they knew what the Town’s reaction would be … just a shrug and a remark like – ‘Oh well, we’ll just change the permit to include the house.’

Unbelievable!

But to make matters worse THEY DIDN’T EVEN CHECK TO SEE WHAT WAS IN THE HOUSE! Now there’s a rather strong smell in the area – from a fuel spill – and serious concerns about the water in surrounding wells. Everyone who might be responsible seems to be running for cover – the MNR, the MOE, the Town of Caledon, the TSSA (Technical Safety Standards Association), etc.. Brock was just as quick to try to cover things up by immediately burying the ‘evidence’ – they smashed the house, the contents, the oil tanks and who-knows-how-much fuel oil into the ground, and apparently buried it all under now-contaminated soil – making matters MUCH worse!

So who is supervising this fiasco?

Well … NOBODY … except Brock themselves!

That’s right. Because of the way the Aggregate Resources Act and related regulations are written, it is the responsibility of the pit owners to supervise themselves, and simply file a report on how well they voluntarily complied with the rules. So how do you suppose that works out?

Can you say CONFLICT of INTEREST out loud?

Now the local residents are left with a massive mess – potentially poisoned wells, frustrating finger-pointing by those officials who are taking our money (taxes) and then seeming to run as far away as possible. The residents are faced with the costs of expensive water testing and ongoing monitoring to ensure the safety of their drinking water, and unsaleable homes (the first question a prospective buyer asks is ‘how’s the well water’?) – all the result of lax laws and irresponsible behaviour all around.

You could say the residents’ ‘goose is cooked’ and those responsible get to fly away and leave their poop behind.

In aggregate, it is a stinky business, and it’s not just the smell of the spilled fuel oil.