A Red Deer County-operated gravel pit was not responsible for contaminating a nearby water well with aluminum and lead concluded an Alberta Parks and Protected Places investigation.
“The assessment report state that Red Deer County’s sand and grave pit operations (Lozynski Pit) had no impact (on) an adjacent private water well and was not the source of the elevated concentrations of aluminum and lead,” says a county statement released Tuesday afternoon.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood said the results of the investigation into the well contamination on a Delburne-area property show that the county’s environmental regulations are working.
“It’s nice to in fact be vindicated in a case like this because I think it’s important people understand how much we care about the environment and how much we care about sustainable development and following the rules,” said Wood after the findings were announced at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“The Alberta government has closed this file. They went through everything necessary and we’ve been vindicated that it was not us. It wasn’t our gravel pit. It was actually part of the applicants’ own actions and how they operated their own water well,” Wood added later in an interview.
Wood said the county responded when the contamination issue was brought to its attention.
“We took it very seriously and were concerned, especially with small children (involved).”
The contamination made the national news and had a huge impact on how some viewed how the county deals with gravel pit mining, he added.
“Honestly, it hurts when you see an accusation on the national news and Red Deer County’s name comes up negatively.”
Alberta Environment began investigating in January after the water well of Jody and Chad Young was contaminated with lead to the point it was no longer safely drinkable. Aluminum was also found in the well on their property northwest of Delburne near the Red Deer River.
The home the Youngs and their two children live in is a few hundred metres from the Lozynski Pit. Beginning around 2020, the family noticed their water getting murkier. Testing in the summer of 2022 confirmed it was contaminated and Alberta Health Services warned the family not to use the water for drinking or cooking.
The Youngs were concerned that the nearby gravel mining might be behind the contamination and the couple spent tens of thousands paying for hydrological assessments and other studies to try to determine what was happening to their water source.
Their anxiety increased as they waged a four-year battle to stop another proposed gravel pit that would have been 165 metres from their home. To their relief, that application was rejected by Red Deer County council last month.
Wood said the county is committed to seeing old gravel sites cleaned up at the end of their lifespan.
“But you know it seems like whatever you do there is someone who doesn’t like what you do. So, we’re in the process right now of (reclaiming up gravel pits) and that’s good to see and I think that’s what the people of Red Deer County would expect.”
Assistant county manager Dave Dittrick told council that the investigation “exonerates” the county from any involvement in the well contamination.
“Red Deer County continues to adhere to the robust regular approval process, we have been and continue to be in full compliance with Alberta Environment regarding our sand and gravel pit operations,” he said in a statement.