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Residents sound alarm over proposed quarry in Severn

Group of residents around Lake St. George worried about effect on environment

Almost 200 Severn residents have signed a petition in opposition to a proposed quarry in the township.

The 193 people who signed the petition, which has not yet been submitted to the township, are concerned about the effects a proposed quarry by Severn Aggregates would have on the environment, including Lake St. George.

The site on Concession 11 is on land zoned greenland and environmentally protected. As noted on the Lake St. George community information website, “the proposed quarry site is part of a complex and very sensitive system of rivers, wetlands and groundwater streams which is called the Severn River Watershed.

“The watershed collects, filters and drains water from higher elevations which then travels into: Lake St. George (1.5 km from quarry border), Severn River (2.2 km from quarry border), Lake Couchiching (3.1 km from quarry border), Sparrow Lake (3.8 km from quarry border).”

Mike Richardson is one of the residents leading the charge against the quarry.

“The hope is that the lands that are currently zoned greenland and environmentally protected stay with that zoning,” he said.

One of the main concerns about the proposed site, which is below the water level of Lake St. George, is the effect on the shallow lake.

“We’re always always struggling with water levels,” Richardson said, noting residents are also worried about the effect on their drinking water. “Lake St. George is a spring-fed lake. If the spring is compromised, the lake will turn into a swamp.”

He said residents felt like they were “side-swiped and that everything was trying to get pushed through without consultation.”

A public meeting was held in 2018. Only a few people attended, including Mayor Mike Burkett.

Burkett also noted the company was only required to directly contact property owners within a certain distance from the proposed site, and that included only one or two homeowners.

“My concern is that’s not fair,” Burkett said. “It needs to be circulated to more people because it’s going to affect a large area.”

The matter hasn’t come before council since 2012, he noted. At that time, the majority of council members expressed opposition to the proposal. Because it hasn’t come back before the current council, Burkett couldn’t speak about council’s position on it right now.

“Councils have always turned (quarry applications) down in Severn because of the impact to residents,” he said. “What happens is they take it to LPAT (the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) and they always win.”

Members of council who serve on the corporate services committee did address the matter during a meeting in May 2018. At that time, while discussing the proposed Aggregate Resource Act licence application for the project, known as the Cumberland quarry, the committee noted “Planning Act applications for a township Official Plan amendment, zoning bylaw amendment and site plan agreement are required” before council could act on any requests.

That hasn’t happened yet, Burkett said. When and if that application it is submitted, there will be further public meetings.

“I want people to be aware and come out and ask questions,” he said. “We need to get our ducks in a row.”

More information about the residents’ concerns can be found here.