The McCormick Pit

 In 2004 Blueland Farms, a privately owned property development company located in London Ontario, purchased the McCormick Farm - a 100 acre property in Caledon on Heart Lake Road. Blueland Farms planned to develop the property as an aggregate mine. It commissioned studies to support a below the watertable licence application to the Ministry of Natural Resources to extract aggregate at 17736 Heart Lake Road.

STAGE 1

Early in 2010 Blueland Farms submitted its proposal to MNR and was advised that the proposal was incomplete and could not be processed without further documentation from other agencies including the Town of Caledon. 

Local information meetings were conducted by Blueland's agent as mandated. Letters of objection were posted to file EBR 010-9061 on the Environmental Registry. A sign was erected on the property. The proposal had a two year window for completion.

Caledon's planning department received the proposal which required amendments to the Town Plan and by-laws before it could go forward. Some consultation with the planning department followed but it was brief and preliminary.

Blueland also requested an MNR environmental review of the property. The review found that there were significant areas of wetland on the property that could not be mined and that the farm was located within the STAR wetlands complex. In early 2012 the MNR licence application ran out of time and lapsed. The sign posted on the property was removed.

 STAGE 2

In July 2012 Blueland approached the Town a second time with a new proposal that contained a substantially reduced extraction area and requested amendments to the Town Plan and its by-laws that would enable a below water table aggregate licence from MNR in the future.

Town planners conducted a DART (Development Application Review Team) meeting with the proponent's consultant. The proponent had a 6 month window to fulfill the requirements for supporting documentation and more studies.

In February 2013, just before the mandated time frame lapsed, Blueland delivered its documentation. A sign indicating the required Plan and by-law changes was posted on the property. At this point the proposal became dormant while Blueland covered the administrative costs of maintaining the application with the planning department. The inactive proposal remained on the Town website and the sign on the McCormick Farm stayed up for several years.

STAGE 3

The ownership of the McCormick Pit site changed in 2017.
The current owner is Caledon Sand and Gravel, a James Dick company.

A new licence application for the McCormick Pit is in the works. By June 2018 MNR had signed off on a new proposal application as being complete. It appears from the wording of the proposal that Blueland Farms remains the property developer and its consultant is Harrington McAvan Ltd. as per the first MNR proposal in 2011. Should the licence be granted, James Dick Sand and Gravel (JDSG) as the operator will have the right to extract aggregate on the subject property and to process material from the McCormick site on the adjoining JDSG site.

On February 14 2019 the NEC (Niagara Escarpment Commission) posted a notice of Blueland Farms' request for an amendment to the NEP [in the Orangeville Banner]. On February 21, 2019,  MNRF (now Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests) posted a notice in the Caledon Citizen of a new Blueland Farms proposal for a Category 1 Class 'A' licence below the water table. A Public Information Meeting, required by MNR, was held on March 25th.

Letters of objections to the proposal can be sent to both the NEC and MNRF and must be received by April 15, 2019 (revised notice Caledon Citizen Feb 28). The addresses are posted with the notices. Letters sent to the MNRF must be copied to the applicant.

A significant feature of the new proposal was a reduced annual aggregate tonnage. The former and also the new proposal material is now available on the Town website (search Blueland Farms). As the proposal is under review, changes are likely. 

Amendments to Caledon's Official Plan and The Niagara Escarpment Plan

Caledon's Official Plan will have to be amended in order to redesignate the subject property from Rural Area to Extractive Industrial Area B to permit a mineral aggregate resource extraction use (gravel pit) below the watertable as well as accessory uses - crushing, screening, washing, stockpiling and recycling of asphalt and concrete material.

The Niagara Escarpment Plan will also have to be amended to redesignate the subject property from Escarpment Rural Area to Mineral Resource Extraction Area.

Blueland Farms McCormick Pit Operation

The licence, if granted, will have no time limit and the operation will be dependent solely on the fluctuations of the marketplace. The site plan indicates an operation that will first start in the north west corner of the property. A service road will be accessed from Heart Lake Road and run from the north east edge along the current fence line between McCormick and Kelly Farms. Berms positioned along the service road and also on Heart Lake Road will shelter the mining operation.

If granted, McCormick Pit operations will:

  • extract aggregate at 135 feet below grade and 75 feet below the watertable
  • remove 750,000 tonnes of mineral aggregate per year depending on market conditions and demands. The operator/owner's nearby aggregate mines are decreasing in yield and he wishes to maintain the current amount of aggregate which stands at 1.8 million tonnes.

In the revised application the operator is applying for an Annual Tonnage Condition which requires the McCormick Pit yield of "750,000 tonnes (to be combined with Licences No. 6512 and No 19073 for a combined maximum of 1.8 million tonnes.)" What are the legal implications of the "Tonnage Condition'? To make up a shortfall in the existing James Dick yield, will the operator be able to take more than 750,000 tonnes from McCormick?

  • will add to the existing flow of truck traffic onto Hwy#10 during peak operation hours resulting in 48 loaded outbound trucks per hour and 48 returning empty.

As no estimates are provided for the McCormick Pit contribution, there is no way of knowing what percentage of traffic is attributed to the McCormick Pit operations. 

  • operate six days a week, spring, summer and fall, weekdays 7am-7pm, Saturdays 7am-5pm
  • release particulate substances into the air composed of dust and chemicals, some that pose a danger to human and animal health.
  • require up to 86,400 litres per day to abate dust if the proposed Best Management Plan for fugitive dust is followed.

No source for this water is identified in the proposal.

  • entirely remove the environmental services of 64 acres of eco-sensitive landscape in an already highly threatened area
  • leave, when aggregate deposits are exhausted, an approximately 27 acre body of water, exposing the aquifer below - in perpetuity

Asphalt and Cement Recycling Plant as an Accessory Use

RecyclingRecycling is referred to in the online Town documentation -
but not in the current proposal to MNRF.  

In its Official Plan Amendment application, Blueland Farms has the intent to operate a cement and asphalt recycling plant on this site which may or may not operate during the life of the aggregate mine.

Unlike in the earlier MNR proposal -
there is no further description of how these operations would be managed:

  • Additional impact on traffic patterns and volume are missing
  • Additional risks to air quality and noise pollution have not been factored into the assessment that currently exist for aggregate extraction
  • There's no discussion about leaching of toxic heavy metals into the watertable from stockpiled and processed materials

Environmental scientists categorize storage and accumulation of asphalt and related materials as a form of landfill requiring appropriate site preparation and management practices. This assessment is entirely absent from the proposal.

McCormick and the Big Picture

The proposed McCormick Pit would be a further extension to a corridor that contains several thousand acres of licenced pits situated on two vulnerable aquifers. This is the juncture of three significant land masses also, the Niagara Escarpment, the Oakridges Moraine and the Paris-Guelph Moraine as well as four subwatersheds.

The environmental cost of this development is monumental and Caledon is in danger of seriously compromising its water supply. Each additional property that is dedicated to gravel extraction in this corridor adds to the risk.

Waters that originate here feed tributaries that enrich southern water supplies but regulations prevent Greenbelt communities like ours from importing water from the south if wells run dry. Unlike Great Lakes communities whose local water supplies no longer support them and so they draw on nearby great lakes, Greenbelt communities are obliged to be self sufficient. Piping water from Lake Ontario to municipal reservoirs is not an option.

Environmental scientists are telling us if this trend continues the resilience of our ecosystems will be overwhelmed. When it's gone, it's gone!

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