Twenty plus demonstrators protest outside Quarry gates - passing trucks drown out the sound

By Ryan O’Dowd

July 20th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This morning CORE Burlington (Conserving our Rural Ecosystems) hosted their first event since the start of the pandemic to oppose Nelson Aggregate’s Mount Nemo quarry expansion application. According to the citizen groups united against Nelson, the proposal is anything but new.

The messaging from the speakers at today’s event was clear, this is the same proposal dismissed in 2012, CORE founder Gord Pinard, calls it the “zombie quarry.” Singer and activist Sarah Harmer enforced this message.

“This quarry proposal was a terrible idea in 2004 and is still a terrible idea in 2021,” Harmer said, “every level of government opposed this project.

“It’s an unfair process that the citizens of this area have to mount another opposition and it speaks to governance issues at the provincial level.”

Nelson’s previous attempt to expand the Mount Nemo quarry was denied in 2012 after failing to include protections for the endangered Jefferson Salamander.

The resulting legal battle cost 2.1 million dollars of Burlington tax-payer money.

The Jefferson Salamander is accommodated for this time with Nelson claiming their native wetlands will be strengthened by the development.

When asked about Nelson’s proposed differences Harmer said the current project and the dismissed proposal were, “materially the same.”

Nelson has suggested sourcing aggregate from other locations will be worse environmentally in the long run due to C02 transportation issues.

“You can’t balance greenhouse gas with permanent destruction,” Janet Turpin Myers, of CORE, told the Gazette. Adding, despite their transportation concerns Nelson already ships fill and asphalt from as far as Toronto and Oshawa.

Shane Phillips, leading the Ear to the Groundwater campaign which fights threats to groundwater, spoke of systemic issues with governance on environmental issues.

“We’re not talking about political parties; it doesn’t matter what parties are involved it’s the same policy. Corporations are driving policy-making, lobbying is driving policy-making. And so, I’m trying to say ‘connect the dots,’ so that people understand this is everyone’s backyard. You can’t say ‘well we need [aggregate] but not in my backyard,’” said Phillips.

The community speaks.

While Phillips was indifferent to party others evoked Premier Doug Ford as a potential factor in Nelson’s new proposal.

“Maybe it’s political; they think they can sneak the quarry in with a construction-friendly [provincial] government,” said protest attendee, Doug Annette.

CORE suggested the environmental impact projections in Nelson’s proposal are incomplete.

Janet Turpin Meyers was opposed to the idea of a quarry expansion the moment she heard about it 15 years ago. A published author who might yet write a book on rural Burlington.

“They’re slanting the proposal [through omission] to their agenda,” Myers said.

In a December 2020 objection letter, the community group cited an overly rosy outlook including claims Nelson’s application treated global warming trends as anomalies, used dated emission factors from the EPA (some 30 years old), and sourced background data from distant communities when the Mount Nemo information was unavailable.

Sarah Harmer performs Escarpment Blues; a piece she wrote 15 years ago when she and others opposed the Nelson application. A truck hauling aggregate passes by in the background.

Today’s speakers raised their voices to be heard over the roaring trucks going to and from Nelson’s existing site. Harmer performed Escarpment Blues, and the audience snapped and swayed along, to a song they knew very well – it was written for their 2005 fight against Nelson.

Harmer spoke about how it felt to have a song from fifteen years ago every bit as relevant today, she cited vigilance.

 

 

 

Ryan O’Dowd is a Sheridan College journalism student who is part of a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative that will have him reporting for the Gazette well into 2022.  He is a Burlington native who plays the guitar.

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