Gravel pit faces opposition

Neighbours fear gravel pit proposed near Markerville could impact aquifers

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Neighbours of a proposed gravel pit are frustrated that they must renew the fight to stop it.

Howell’s Excavating Ltd. wants to mine about 2.1 million tonnes of gravel in phases over 20 years on about 122 acres, six km south of Markerville in Red Deer County.

County council approved first reading of a bylaw amendment to include the proposed pit in a gravel overlay district on Tuesday. A public hearing has been set for April 25.

Adele and John McKechnie live next to the proposed gravel pit and are concerned gravel excavation will endanger an aquifer important to local water supplies and increase flooding risk in the area.

The gravel operation, which is located in the Medicine River Environmentally Significant Area, will also create noise and dust problems and is incompatible with neighbouring properties.

Howell’s Excavating proposed a gravel pit on the same land in 2013 but was turned down by the county’s municipal planning commission. Howell’s appealed but lost.

The McKechnies are upset that once again they must fight the same battle over again. A gravel operation by another company was approved in the 1990s to mine gravel nearby but did not go ahead because of a requirement that the company only mine gravel above the water table, they say.

Residents are also concerned that under a gravel pit approval process adopted by the county a year ago does not allow for appeals once council has agreed to allow a gravel pit to be included in a gravel overlay district.

John McKechnie said the gravel pit approval process is not protecting landowners.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s made it worse.”

Lawyer Gayle Langford is representing Howell’s Excavating and said the company has hired a former Alberta Environment expert to ensure the site is suitable and water supplies are not affected.

The expert will ensure Howell’s Excavating’s application goes “over and beyond what would be required,” said Langford.

More observation wells will be drilled to ensure water supplies for residents are not affected. Water on the site flows away from neighbouring properties, she said.

“So there’s absolutely no impact on their water supply.”

Berms and additional trees have also been proposed to act as noise and dust buffers.

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