Gravel pit opponents adamant project must go

Neighbours of a proposed gravel pit near Markerville remain firmly opposed to the project despite changes that will put its boundary further from nearby homes.

Neighbours of a proposed gravel pit near Markerville remain firmly opposed to the project despite changes that will put its boundary further from nearby homes.

Suzanne Telford said a 3.5-metre landscaped berm that has been proposed to screen the operation would still be only a few metres from the pens where she raises purebred dogs. Even though the closest part of the pit has been moved back from her home and other changes have been made to the application, they won’t make a lot of difference, she said.

“It’s still going to wreck our life,” Telford told a Red Deer County subdivision and development appeal board hearing on Monday.

The hearing was a continuation of a Nov. 1 appeal hearing that was adjourned to allow the proponent’s lawyer to review submissions made in opposition to the project. An appeal was launched after the county’s municipal planning commission, which is made up of council members, voted 5-1 in September to reject the gravel pit application by Wendell and Ileen Miller of 6M Holdings Ltd.

Telford, who lives with her husband and three young children in a home that would be about 135 metres from the edge of the gravel operation, also fears the mining will interfere with her water supply.

An offer by the gravel pit proponent to dig a deeper well for her if she encounters problems only confirms the risk, she said at the hearing at Red Deer County Centre that drew about 40 people.

Pat Hanson, also lives near the gravel pit site, and said there are no measures that could be taken to reduce the dust, noise and pollution that would be created by the six-day-a-week operation. Her young son, who requires oxygen therapy and asthma medication, would be forced to remain indoors, as would another son, who has autism and is sensitive to noise.

She shares Telford’s concerns that water supplies would be disrupted as the gravel that forms a vital part of the aquifer is removed.

“I think it’s absurd to think (the aquifer) won’t be affected — then what?”

Janice Agrios, a lawyer representing 6M Holdings, said the project has been designed specifically to address neighbours’ concerns about dust, noise and other issues related to gravel operations at the site about two km southeast of Markerville.

The berm will screen the operation, which not be any louder than existing agricultural land uses. Less than nine acres of gravel will be mined at a time and much of the site will be returned to farmland after it is mined out. Since the gravel will come from a wet pit, the amount of dust created will be minimal.

A 30-metre setback from the river and a creek are also in place to address concerns that have been raised that the gravel site is too close to the Medicine River flood plain. No gravel will be mined from flood ways and a berm will be built to keep water from flowing into the gravel pit.

Agrios said water experts hired by 6M Holdings have determined local water supplies are not in danger from a gravel operation. She urged the appeal board to review the scientific studies prepared for the application carefully and not be swayed by “speculation” about the impact of the operation on the area.

Besides approval from the county, Alberta Environment and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans must also review the application and give their approval before it could go ahead, she said.

The appeal board has 15 days to make a decision.