The Ear to the Groundwater Walking Tour made a stop at the Dolime Quarry to raise awareness about protecting local drinking water and the potential dangers of aggregate mining.
Wellington Water Watchers volunteer Shane Philips has travelled through Cataract, Acton and Rockwood, talking to people about their drinking water. The tour is part of the People's Water Campaign 2021, which the Water Watchers kicked off in June and focuses on the theme of groundwater protection.
On Friday morning, Philips stopped at the Dolime Quarry for part of the walking tour to participate in an event with other guest speakers.
“As I walked from town to town, I met Liberals, I met with Conservatives, I met Greens, I met NDP,” said Philips at the event, “and I simply said to them exactly what I saw, and to them, they understood that this was insane.”
Aggregate mining can involve blasting underneath the water table to acquire materials from a quarry or pit to make roads, subway tunnels and other structures.
With Guelph’s drinking water supply relying entirely on groundwater, any potential breach in a quarry can be concerning.
The Dolime Quarry is a cautionary tale of the risks of blasting beneath the water table, says Arlene Slocombe, executive director of the Wellington Water Watchers.
“In 2006, blasting opened a breach between the floor of the quarry and the aquifer below,” said Slocombe during the event. “This has created a permanent risk to the security of Guelph’s groundwater which now must be monitored forever.”
Mike Darmon, a former Water Watchers board member and activist, was involved in the 15-year process to reach a solution for the Dolime Quarry.
He said the quarry is still the biggest threat to the aquifer, which supports eight water wells in the area, including one 500m away from the quarry.
“It’s been a long, long fight. I don’t envy anyone starting a fight with a quarry,” he said.
Joining the Water Watchers at the event was the Green Party of Ontario party leader Mike Schreiner. He said the biggest threat to drinking water in the region is aggregate mining.
“The province’s policies around protecting people, communities, water, farmland from aggregates are far too weak,” said Schreiner, calling for stronger regulations, “We see this in communities all over the province, as citizens, we need to keep speaking up, protecting our water should be a top issue.”
Philips said the walks are inspired by children around the world who walk to retrieve water, and the efforts of Indigenous peoples who advocate to preserve natural resources, including the efforts of the Haudenosaunee women involved in the campaign, Protect The Tract.
“If we do say we are stewards of the earth, if we do say we care about the future, we have to look at this and say, ‘Okay, we can’t keep doing this anymore,’” he said about excessive aggregate mining.
“I’m not against capitalism, but this is capitalism at its worst.”
When speaking with people on the tour, Philips said it was easier to build bridges with different parties around water.
“It became very easy around these pits,” he said, “When I started saying, ‘Hey, there’s an empty pit, and five kilometres away, they’re gonna dig a new pit and destroy the landscape, destroy your nature, and possibly your water.’”
“And people said, ‘Yeah, that doesn’t make sense.’”