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Citizens for Safe Ground Water Inc
Support of Region of Waterloo’s Comment to MNRF Changes

Citizens for Safe Ground Water Inc (CFSGW) submitted its comments on Bill 132 to the Province late last fall. At the top of CFSGW’s concerns was ensuring source water protection.

We would like to publicly support the Region of Waterloo with the following concerns and suggestions communicated in their comment to the MNRF changes:

Source Water Protection

We reiteration the Region of Waterloo’s concerns as stated in the Region of Waterloo’s comment to these MNRF changes:

“The Region is one of the largest municipalities in Canada that relies on groundwater for most of its drinking water. A large share of the Region’s drinking water sources overlaps with significant deposits of sand, gravel and other mineral aggregate resources. Extracting aggregates close to, or below the water table in these source water areas has the potential to impact the quantity and quality of water in a Regional supply well.Such impacts could potentially occur through contamination caused during the extraction process (e.g., fuel spills), or through land use activities following the rehabilitation of the site (e.g., road salt, agricultural pesticides, or nutrients).

When the Province enacted Bill 132, it amended the ARA to prohibit the use of
municipal zoning to restrict the depth of extraction of an aggregate operation. This
change came into effect on December 10, 2019. During the consultation period for Bill
132, Council had asked the Province not to make this specific change to give municipalities a stronger role in protecting groundwater resources. While the Province did not act on Council’s request, it is proposing several other regulatory changes to help protect groundwater resources, including:

• establishing new rules for how the water table is established;
• improving the content of water reports to better assess potential impacts to water;
• requiring water reports to be prepared by a registered Professional Geologist or
exempted Professional Engineer;
• requiring applicants to identify whether the proposed operation is in a wellhead
protection area, or have the potential to cause a significant threat to a local water
source; and
• improving how aggregate recycling activities are carried out to better protect water

While staff are generally supportive of these changes, it is our view that some of the
technical requirements being proposed represent minimum standards and may not be
adequate in all situations. For example, the proposed rules for establishing the water
table would require applicants to monitor groundwater levels for a one-year period. By
contrast, the Region’s hydrogeological study guidelines currently require a minimum of
two years of monitoring data where there is a potential risk to drinking water
sources. This standard provides a better picture of water level trends, which will become
increasingly variable in the future because of the impacts of climate change (e.g., higher
annual precipitation rates will result in increasing groundwater levels and higher water
table). Accordingly, staff recommend that the Ministry of Natural Resources and
Forestry (MNRF) require applicants to submit a minimum of two years of
groundwater monitoring data to establish the water table where there is a
potential risk to drinking water sources (e.g., extraction below the water table,
aggregate washing, etc.).

The proposed regulations would also require new and exiting aggregate operations to
have a dust mitigation strategy. Other than water, the only Provincially approved dust
suppressants are both chloride-based chemicals. Applying these chemicals on an open
sand and gravel pit would result in the chloride recharging water supply aquifers,
thereby increasing chloride levels in public and private wells. If a pit is being proposed in
a source water protection area, the Region would request that chloride-based dust
suppressants not be used. Given that dust suppression would now be required at
all pits, staff recommend that the Province view aggregate extraction activities as
a threat under the Clean Water Act, which would be subject to the same risk
mitigation measures required for winter road and parking lot maintenance.
In addition, the Province is proposing new rules that would exempt certain low-risk
activities from the requirement to get a license to extract aggregates (e.g., extracting
aggregates for personal use on a farm). One of the conditions to qualify for exemption is
that excavation does not occur within a Category A or B Wellhead Protection Area
(WHPA) under the Clean Water Act. While staff support the intent of this proposal,
we recommend that the Province strengthen it by prohibiting outright all
aggregate extraction activities within a Category A or B WHPA under the Clean
Water Act, to further prevent or minimize the risk to municipal drinking water.

Public Notification and Consultation

The current zoning and licensing process for new mineral aggregate operations follows
a dual process under the ARA and the Planning Act. The process can be fairly complex
and difficult for community members to navigate. A common complaint is that more time
and clearer information is needed for the public to participate effectively in the process.
The Province is proposing to alleviate this problem by:
extending the current notification period under the ARA from 45 to 60 days to allow
more time for agencies and interested parties to review and comment on mineral
aggregate applications;

• allowing applicants to request an extension past the current two-year overall
consultation process deadline, thereby giving applicants more time to resolve any
objections from the community;
• requiring applicants to notify residents (who may not be landowners) located within
150 metres of a proposed aggregate operation. Applicants would continue to be
required to notify landowners (who may not be residents) within 120 metres of a
proposed pit; and
• establishing new requirements for applications to expand an existing mineral
aggregate operation into the water table.

In general, staff support these changes and feel they are an improvement over the
current notification requirements. Despite these improvements, however, we
reiterate our previous recommendation to the Province that municipalities be
given the ability to appeal the MNRF’s decision (to expand an existing aggregate
operation into the water table) to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, if the
municipality’s concerns regarding source water protection are not fully
addressed through the application process. In the absence of any appeal rights, any
outstanding concerns could only be referred to the Tribunal for a hearing at the
discretion of the MNRF.

Compliance Assessment Reports

Currently, the ARA requires operators to conduct an annual self-assessment of their
operation and to submit a Compliance Assessment Report to the MNRF. In practice,
these reports are simply collected by the MNRF and are not systematically reviewed for
errors or omissions. The Province is proposing to improve this process by:

• developing a “smart form” that would pre-populate sections of the form based on
previously submitted information;
• streamlining the required assessment information for sites that have been inactive for
more than three years, to focus on assessing compliance to requirements for gates,
demarcation of boundaries and monitoring; and
• enhancing the rehabilitation information required (see section below).

Staff generally support these changes and feel they should help operators stay familiar
with what activities are permitted on their site. It should also help them ensure that any potential impacts are avoided or appropriately mitigated. Despite our broad support,
however, staff note that the effectiveness of the self-assessment process will ultimately
depend on the accuracy of the information submitted by the operators. Consequently,
staff recommend that the MNRF review its current site inspection and
enforcement rates to ensure that the self-reported data is accurate.