By Chet Greason
The Friends of Transvaal (FoT) presented two delegations last week, one to Perth South Township on Tuesday, Jan. 22 and another in front of Perth County Council in Stratford on Thursday, Jan. 24.
The delegations were conducted by spokespersons Romayne Smith Fullerton and her husband Greg Fullerton, and addressed the myriad of concerns the community action group has regarding the gravel pit that has been proposed for the property at the terminus of Road 127 by 1537763 Ontario Inc., a London aggregate company. The pit would be located along the banks of the Thames River just southwest of St. Marys, in an area known locally as Transvaal.
“Every single person in Transvaal...is opposed to this pit,” said Smith Fullerton in Perth South, while her slideshow presentation blinked through pictures of Transvaal homes adorned with “Stop the pit!” signs. “We are all taxpayers here, and we hope that since you are our township representatives, we can convince all of you to stand with us, against this London-based pit application, and use your authority as councillors to not agree to rezone this land from flood plain, fringe flood plain, and agricultural, to aggregate.”
Perhaps one of the sharpest barbs in the FoT’s arsenal was an inspection report compiled by an Inspector from the Ministry of Natural Resources, addressed to Andy Dziadura, the owner of the company, regarding a similar pit he owns in Zorra. The report cites numerous violations of the Aggregate Resources Act at the site, including unfit berms, leakage, a lack of continuous rehabilitation, and multiple piles of refuse and scrap metal.
“Given that this applicant has not done due diligence elsewhere, why would we reasonably conclude he would follow the rules set here where the risks are so much higher given the proposed location?”
Smith Fullerton also addressed some of what she says are inaccuracies contained in 1537763 Ontario Inc.’s initial reports, including a claim that the location was not on flood plain. The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) refuted this, pointing out that, in fact, most of the proposed extraction area was located within the flood plain.
“Everything that is in this pit is going to end up in the Thames River,” stated Smith Fullerton, amid a series of photos showing just how high the river can rise (over six feet in some areas). “And if this area were to be washed away...there will be a change in direction and an increase in the speed of the water, and everyone’s property downriver will face erosion and possible flooding.”
The company’s initial application also noted that there were no wells closer than 700 metres from the proposed site; if there were, the excavation process could cause drinking water contamination. In fact, Howard Bradley’s well is within 700 metres and, according to Smith Fullerton, it is the primary source of Bradley’s drinking water.
Other issues brought up included excessive noise, property devaluation, the widening of an access road that would severely decimate the frontage of Nancy and Mark Clark’s property, and the preservation of local fauna, including a nest of bald eagles located less than a mile from the site.
The Township of Perth South will have to rezone the property from its current designation to that of ‘aggregate’, however, following the presentation, none of the councillors mentioned rezoning.
Councillor Stuart Arkett wondered if there was a piece of legislation that might stop the pit. “We’ve been in this situation before...where one act overrides others.”
CAO Tim Ivanyshan agreed, and said staff would look into it.
Councillor Jim Aitcheson suggested the FoT contact the UTRCA. “They’re the ones who ultimately make the decision.”
Smith Fullerton responded that the UTRCA is well-aware of the proposed pit, and have even drafted a letter strongly opposing it. Mayor Bob Wilhelm agreed with Aitcheson, saying the UTRCA “carries more weight” than Perth South.
Councillors seemed similarly unwilling to commit at Perth County Council on Thursday, with Director of County Planning and Development Dave Hanly noting that that Council is currently awaiting comments and additional information from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the UTRCA before making any decisions.
Meanwhile, Bill Bradshaw, whose engineering firm is currently representing 1537763 Ontario Inc., did not have a response at this time. He told the Journal Argus it was policy that “...we don’t comment until we’ve completed all of our studies.”