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Red Deer County council hears emotional appeal to turn down gravel pit proposal

Jody Young says gravel pit fight has taken a toll on her family

A Delburne-area woman made a heartfelt appeal to Red Deer County council on Tuesday to reject a proposed gravel pit near her family’s home.

Jody and husband Chad Young have been fighting the gravel pit that would be only about 165 metres from their back door for more than three years.

On Tuesday, she was back before council in a public hearing that began on May 2 and was recessed to allow the county administration, the applicant and those opposed to gather more information to respond to issues raised at the hearing.

Young told council how the long-running fight has taken a psychological, physical, emotional and financial toll on her family.

“Is it fair that the handlings of these proceedings have caused me to lose trust in government? Is it fair I and my family have had to deal with the stress and anxiety these matters have caused?” she asked council.

“If this application before council is approved and the proposed gravel development proceeds it will cause irreparable harm and take so much more from us.”

Border Paving wants to extract gravel within the 8.9-acre mining area near the Red Deer River about 10 km northwest of Delburne. The gravel would be hauled elsewhere for processing. The pit would operate for about five years with reclamation taking place in the last two years. To go ahead, council must approve a bylaw amendment including the site in its gravel pit overlay.

Young said the pit would be located only about 120 metres from the family’s new water well. It was dug this spring after their previous well was contaminated with lead and aluminum.

The gravel pit will create a long list of negative impacts including, noise, dust, truck traffic, the effect on the environment and wildlife, depreciation of proper values and the “complete and utter loss of the enjoyment of our property,” she said in the hearing attended by about 30 people, mostly supporters.

The Youngs also fear nearby gravel mining will jeopardize the family’s new water supply.

“Gravel mining is not a benign activity. Overall, the environmental, health and social impacts are significant. Our new water well is undoubtedly at risk if the very gravel seam we’re getting our sourced water from is mined out.”

Roger Walls, whose family owns Border Paving, said the company has a good track record for reclaiming its gravel pits aand has never been out of compliance with regulations. The company, which has about 40 active pits, has reclaimed 21 and another five are in line to be reclaimed.

Walls said the more than 800 pages of information submitted to council by opponents of the pit was an attempt to “overwhelm” them.

“We feel that they’re trying to put you in a position where you have no choice but to say no to our application,” said Walls, adding he was confident that council would make a decision based on the facts.

Walls said the company has no intention of extracting any water from the water table and test wells at the future gravel pit site did not hit water.

The company also hired consultants to undertake an environmental review that was deemed adequate by the county’s consultant.

A number of others also spoke out against the gravel pit.

Dale Christian, a Red Deer County resident who has long campaigned to protect aquifers from gravel pit proposals, said it would take years of testing to get an accurate picture of groundwater tables in the area proposed for mining.

The county is also failing to take into account the potential long-term and cumulative impact of gravel mining on an area.

“Where is the cumulative impact assessment in all of this?”

Christian also questioned why council would consider allowing a gravel pit in an area designated an Environmentally Significant Area. The purpose of the designation is to protect areas from development, she added.

After four hours, council opted to recess the public hearing for a second time to give administration time to provide more information before going to second reading. The hearing will resume on July 11.

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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