South Bruce residents concerned about road damage

·4 min read

Editor's note: This article was edited on Feb. 8 to correct the name of the Teeswater River, as well as adding comment from the NWMO.

TEESWATER – Local residents who live near the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) borehole drilling sites are concerned about the amount of road damage that recently appeared near the historic truss bridge on Concession Road 8.

Jim McDonald, who lives about a kilometre away from the damaged part of the road, began to notice erosion and loose pavement above the culvert, which is just past the one-lane bridge over the Teeswater River, on Jan. 15.

Local resident Rita Groen believes that the damage has been caused by “the day-in-day-out caravan of gravel trucks rumbling to and from the borehole drilling site,” according to a letter she wrote to South Bruce council dated Jan. 21.

Concerns about the culvert’s safety, which helps to protect the road from flooding which occurs at that location of the river, and who is responsible for the repairs, taxpayers or NWMO, are two of the questions Groen and McDonald have.

Groen said in the letter, “Before this borehole drilling project started, there should have been an independent report made to establish the initial state of our roads, so that the NWMO could be held liable for any damage to our public infrastructure from their activities.”

“But apparently this was not done in advance. Due to this oversight, damage to our roads continue and repairs are postponed while people scramble to determine who will pay,” she added.

According to the municipality’s website, the public works department is responsible for managing South Bruce’s municipal infrastructure such as roads, snow removal, municipal tree maintenance, landfill operations, recycling, and garbage collection.

South Bruce Mayor Robert Buckle also wants to know the answer to the question, he said at a recent council meeting. Steve Travele, South Bruce’s communications and public relations officer, told Midwestern Newspapers that “council directed staff at their meeting on Jan. 26 to bring back a report addressing road damages and investigating the cause of it.”

The NWMO is preparing two sites along Concession Road 8, one on either side of the river. The second borehole preparations began in January. Part of the preparations include hauling gravel onto the sites to prepare a base.

The dump trucks that are hauling in that gravel are the likely culprits of the road damage, Groen said. She witnessed gravel trucks passing her home, “every few minutes,” during the first few weeks.

Concern for the McPherson Bridge, a one-lane structure between the two borehole sites, also has McDonald and Groen worried, as the increased volume and weight may cause a dangerous situation if the bridge becomes weakened.

The 2020 Municipal Bridge Inspection Report, presented to council in September, recommended that major rehabilitation be completed within two years on the McPherson Bridge.

The bridge is over 75 years old, the report said, and has evidence of a previous major rehabilitation.

The report went on to say that “typically, a bridge of this nature would be rehabilitated for a second time,” and that replacement would likely be necessary in 12 years if rehabilitation is not done.

The report also said, “Given the vintage of the structure and the corrosion noted, a load limit evaluation may be completed prior to the rehabilitation.”

The NWMO sent a response via email to Midwestern Newspapers to address a complaint by some residents regarding the road damage.

"As a matter of principle, the NWMO is committed to protecting and enhancing the well-being of the communities where we live and work, and the community should not be out-of-pocket for participating in the site selection process,” said Becky Smith, regional communications manager.

“We ensure anyone working on the project is very aware of safety, operational rules, and best practices in their work. Our road usage is within the road usage requirements by the municipality and county."

Added Smith, “We have had discussions with the municipality and understand municipal staff will be completing a roads report that will provide additional information that will help with future planning.”

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times