Concern heating up over proposed Wilmot gravel pit

·4 min read

WILMOT — Concern about the proposed Hallman gravel pit next to Shingletown, less than ten kilometres west of Kitchener is heating up.

Ten citizens presented against the pit at Wilmot Township’s Zoom council meeting last week as well as two experts hired by the citizens’ group Citizens for Safe Ground Water to speak on their findings. Altogether the delegation lasted for nearly two hours.

The gravel pit requires a zoning change by the township, from agricultural to aggregate extraction.

Linda Laepple operates an organic farm on Bleams Road near the proposed site, and was one of the citizens that presented to council.

About 30 years ago, the site on Witmer Road was used for an intensive beef cattle operation. Laepple says that older residents have told her that manure was flushed throughout the property and also deposited into a large lagoon where it was allowed to seep in to the ground. She also surmises that the site is full of any pesticides and herbicides applied to the agricultural fields over the years.

Laepple says any dust dug up on this property will be full of these contaminants which will blow not only onto her fields of organic produce, but into the nearby towns of Baden and Shingletown as well.

“At this stage of the project, there is paper, there are words and there is reality. Papers get filed, words get forgotten, but reality we breathe, we eat and we drink,” she said.

The experts presenting on behalf of Citizens for Safe Ground Water said the project’s proposal did not include sufficient air quality assessment or information about the dust and particulate matter.

The group’s experts also said the assessment used an inaccurate baseline assessment of the noise level already present in Shingletown and an incorrect assessment of possible noise that would come from the pit and the asphalt and cement repurposing operations.

The group also asks council to consider the cumulative effects of pre-existing gravel pits, and other future gravel pit locations nearby that could be built in future.

Citizens for Safe Ground Water says they will continue their delegations to council.

Rick Esbaugh, the owner of the property and who is applying for the zone change to build the Hallman Pit responded to the Record’s request for comment. He writes, “the proposed Hallman Pit application continues to proceed through the regulatory planning process for both the Planning Act and Aggregate Resources Act including ongoing discussions with Provincial, Regional and Township approval agencies to address any remaining technical issues.”

Esbaugh owns the property as a company called Jackson Harvest Farms. Esbaugh is also president of Tri-City Materials in Petersburg.

Esbaugh applied to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for a licence to excavate aggregate from an above water-table pit under the Aggregate Resources Act in November 2019.

The property in question is located at 1894 to 1922 Witmer Road in Wilmot Township. It is next to the hamlet of Shingletown.

The zoning application was reviewed by the Region of Waterloo and met with criticism particularly surrounding hydrogeological issues. Region of Waterloo who sent a response in February 2020.

Much of the northern portion of the property is within a groundwater recharge area. The land is also within approximately one kilometre of two municipal wells that contributes to the region’s drinking water supply.

After revisions were made to the proposal and some back and forth between the Region of Waterloo and Esbaugh’s consultants, last month the region concluded that subject to a few more comments, it “addresses the Region’s remaining concerns related to hydrogeology and source water protection.”

The final decision of this zone change application will rest with Wilmot Township council. Andrew Martin, manager of planning for the township’s development services department says the township is still reviewing the application and does not yet have a time frame for when the final decision will be made.

He says that once final comments are received from the Region of Waterloo and the Grand River Conservation Authority, the township will finalize a summary of all materials received in support and opposition to the application. This will include the expert peer reviews provided on behalf of Citizens for Safe Ground Water.

Martin says the township will give notice that the material is available for review and a date when council will hear any additional comments or concerns on the summary’s contents. He anticipates a two month notice period to review the material.

After this council meeting, township staff will review any additional information presented and then prepare a report for Council’s consideration. Martin says notice will be given about the availability of this report and the date that Council will consider it.

Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email lgerber@therecord.com

Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record