Port Colborne Quarries (PCQ) has operated three pits in Port Colborne for many years. The first, now exhausted, has become subject to public controversy over the future use of the site. Unfortunately, misinformation about these issues has spread. The GNCC hopes to shed light on it and to help elected officials reach an evidence-based decision on this issue.
About the GNCC
The GNCC is a membership-based business organization representing 1,500 members throughout the Niagara region. It is the largest business organization in Niagara and the second-largest Chamber of Commerce in Ontario. The GNCC has many members in Port Colborne and has advocated on Port Colborne issues before, including advocating to City Council on issues such as fire bylaws, sidewalk encroachment, and development charges.
The Port Colborne quarry
- It is proposed that Pit 1 be rehabilitated by filling the quarry site with clean, inert fill (uncontaminated soil).
Port Colborne quarries consists of three pits. Quarrying activity in Pit One ceased in the early 1970s, prior to subsequent Provincial legislation, such as the Pits and Quarries Control Act and the Aggregate Resources Act. As a result, Pit 1 does not have any stipulated final rehabilitation requirements. It is currently a depleted quarry, hosting an aggregate processing facility to support the activities of the other two pits. There are a series of wash ponds associated with the processing equipment. There are some accessory uses include an office, a scale house, shed and warehouse. Some backfilling has already been performed in Pit 1 for side-slope stabilization using imported material.
Port Colborne Quarries Inc. (PCQ), the quarry owner, wants to begin the rehabilitation process for Pit 1 by filling it with clean inert soil (fill). In order to do this, PCQ requires a site alteration permit. With approval of the permit, PCQ will be able to initiate a clean fill program that will allow Pit 1 to be rehabilitated back to its original pre-extraction grade (level) with clean soil from construction sites. This will take approximately twenty years.
This is not a landfill. Clean fill is soil that has not gone through any chemical, physical, or biological transformations that may cause adverse health or environmental effects.
Clean fill does not include soil with contaminates, organic or biological waste including food or yard waste, metals, plastics, cardboard, glass, fiberglass and hazardous household waste such as chemicals, appliances, tires, or electronics.
For more information, the soil management plan by Golder can be read here.
The sampling and analysis regime
- A rigorous regime of laboratory testing meeting or exceeding all Provincial standards is applied to every single load of fill arriving at the quarry, in addition to inspections on arrival, a waybill checking regime, and additional random laboratory analyses.
A Sampling and Analysis Plan is required by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks (MECP) to describe the process by which the soil will be tested to ensure it is contaminant-free.
The source site (i.e. where the fill is coming from) will have to submit a Soil Source Screening Form, a Sampling and Analysis Plan, a laboratory Certificates of Analysis and evidence of appropriate chain of custody of fill prior to submission to a laboratory for analysis.
Sampling is required both at the source site and at Pit 1. PCQ is proposing on-site sampling three times more stringent (frequent) than the MECP regulation.
All material entering the facility will be laboratory tested and certified by the source site prior to being accepted. All documents will be maintained on-site and be made available for inspection by the City, Region, and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks (MECP).
Additionally, all material will be inspected upon arrival at the site by a qualified person (QP) as stipulated by regulation (53/04) of the Environmental Protection Act. The QP will be certified or licensed as an Engineer or Geoscientist. A minimum number of samples would be three (3), with up to fifteen (15) samples depending on the nature of the load.
A waybill or ticketing system, based on current best practices, will be implemented, along with appropriate tracking logs. Trucks not identified in tracking logs as coming from a site source, with appropriate documentation, will be refused. In addition, a procedure will be in place for rejected loads. Loads that are questionable will be directed to a segregated area on the property.
Random loads will additionally be subjected to a second laboratory analysis.
- The plan meets all provincial and industry standards. The aquifer is in no danger of contamination.
Water well users located near pits and quarries are often concerned about the impact that quarry-related operations will have on their water supply. Legislation under Part XV.1 of the Environmental Protection Act ensures that the water supply is protected.
The Golder Soil Management Plan is compliant with industry and provincial standards and reflects recommendations by the MECP.
Clean fill has no effect on the aquifer and checks and balances have been identified to ensure that only clean fill will be accepted at Pit 1.
Clean fill program needs
- Clean soil has often been dumped in landfills, filling them up faster than necessary. Responsible environmental management requires that this practice stop and be replaced by rehabilitation such as that proposed for Pit 1.
Soil disposal and the status of landfills have increasingly become issues in southern Ontario in recent years. Even though not contaminated, excess soil material from active construction sites was traditionally directed to municipal landfills, thereby reducing the lifespan of those facilities.
The MECP now encourages the beneficial reuse of excess soil in a manner promoting sustainability and the protection of the environment, including the filling in of excavations.
PCQ’s parent company, Rankin Construction, has a number of construction projects for which the removal of clean fill is necessary. Pit 1 provides an opportunity to use the excess soil to rehabilitate the site in an environmentally sustainable manner, bringing the pit back to its original grade.
The future of the quarries
- Pits 2 and 3 will become passive recreational lakes. Pit 1 will likely be mixed-use industrial, in keeping with the City and Region’s official plans for the area.
As per the City’s FAQ, the 1982 agreement does not state that Pit 1 must become a passive lake. According to that agreement, PCQ is required to undertake a rehabilitation program for Pit 1, which is compatible to the program contemplated for the other pits. This does not impose an obligation on Port Colborne Quarries to establish a passive recreational lake to rehabilitate Pit 1.
Any future, final land use of Pit 1 will require a zoning application and related public process under the Planning Act.
PCQ has been open and transparent that the future end use for Pit 1 will likely be mixed use industrial, which is in keeping with the City and Region’s Official Plans for the area, which identify industrial/employment lands.
PCQ’s parent company has committed to work with the City and the Region to engage in a secondary plan process related to the future of Pit 1. As Pit 1 was not licensed, the City has no authority to require a particular form of rehabilitation for this pit, nor does the (1982) Site Plan Agreement require an amendment.
Official Plans provide an overall vision, goals and objectives for the growth and development, protection of resources and construction of infrastructure for sustainable communities. A secondary plan is a tool that allows a study and policies to be developed regarding a specific area in the municipality.
More information can be obtained at http://portcolborne.ca/page/pcq.