Residents of Mount Uniacke have submitted their comments on the application for the proposed 10-times expansion of a four-hectare quarry in their community, and are concerned about violations at the current quarry.
Stephen Marsh, who has lived in Mount Uniacke for more than 50 years, is one of the residents who opposes the expansion of the quarry. The Halifax Examiner spoke with Marsh in May 2022 when he and other residents attended an open house hosted by the quarry’s owners, Northumberland Capital Corporation Inc. (NCCI).
NCCI opened the quarry in 2015, and there was opposition from the community at that time. NCCI uses the quarry to produce aggregate for construction and infrastructure projects.
In an interview on Thursday, Marsh said after 16 months of no word on the proposed expansion, residents learned about NCCI’s application for expansion in a small ad in the classified section of the Chronicle Herald on Aug. 29. He said residents then had 30 days to submit their comments on the application to the Department of Environment and Climate Change. The deadline to submit those comments was Thursday at midnight.
“If they go to 40 hectares, it’s going to be like a war out there,” Marsh said. “That’s 75 football fields.”
Marsh said he and a handful of others are leading the residents’ concerns in the community. They have a Facebook group called “Stop the Quarry Expansion,” but Marsh noted the group is private and open only to a couple hundred of residents.
Residents have a number of concerns about the quarry expansion, Marsh said, including blasting from the quarry, which may affect foundations in homes. And residents are also concerned about the water in their wells.
The quarry is located in the Sackville River watershed and is about 250 metres from the river’s headwaters. Marsh said anything that comes from the quarry runs downhill into the watershed area.
“We have eight years of aerial photo documentation that shows … its evolution, over the years. Of course, they had to have a tailing pond installed. We have pictures of this tailing pond and it’s pretty much doing nothing. It’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing with respect to capturing effluent,” Marsh said.
“We can see in pictures it seems to be overflowing its banks, and it’s not even located where it should be, in my estimation.”
Marsh said the proposed expansion borders on a few neighbourhoods, including Uniacke Mines Road, the village of Mount Uniacke, Lewis Lake and East Uniacke, and a new development called Gold Mine Estates.
“So, we are now all surrounded by this quarry and we’re within two kilometres, and much closer, in some cases,” Marsh said. “And we’re right in the middle of the pristine Sackville River headwaters and a watershed area. I can’t see how anybody would have granted the initial quarry, but it did happen. And now with this expansion, it’s a nail in a coffin to people around here.”
Traffic is another concern. Marsh said Uniacke Mines Road is a dirt road and the only way in and out the quarry. He said the road has rarely been repaired, adding it’s only been “Band-Aid fixed” since it opened. Marsh said the people who currently live on that road can’t open their windows or hang clothes on their clothes lines because of excessive dust.
Marsh said Brad Johns, the MLA for Sackville-Uniacke, arranged a meeting for residents with representatives from the Department of Environment and Climate Change to hear their concerns about the quarry expansion proposals and the violations at the current quarry. That meeting took place on Sept. 25.
Marsh said he thought the meeting with the environment department went well.
“We have presented [the department] with a mountain of violations and non-compliance issues, so the ball is in their court,” Marsh said. Marsh and other residents didn’t want to elaborate on the issues of non-compliance at the quarry.
Another resident who didn’t want to be named told the Examiner “the community’s position is that no consideration of the expansion application should occur, until a thorough investigation has been completed and all non-compliances are resolved.”
Environment Minister Tim Halman has until Oct. 18 to make a decision on NCCI’s application for an expansion.
Response from the Department of Environment and Climate Change
The Halifax Examiner contacted Andrew Rogers, CEO of NCCI, to ask about the proposed quarry expansion, the issues around non-compliance, and the residents’ concerns. We haven’t heard back as of publication, however, if we do we will update this story.
We also contacted the Department of Environment and Climate Change to ask how many residents submitted responses about the proposal quarry expansion, the status of the investigations about non-compliance at the current quarry, and when those findings will be released to the public.
Spokesperson Mikaela Etchegary told us the department “is in the process of collecting more information about these concerns. There is no ongoing investigation at this time.”
Etchegary also confirmed the environment minister will make a decision on NCCI’s application on or before Oct. 18, and comments from the public will be available for viewing when the decision is made.
‘We don’t want this to happen’
In the meantime, Marsh said he will continue to get the word out about the proposed expansion. He said about 100 residents showed up to a meeting about the proposed expansion at the Uniacke firehall on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
Marsh said they encouraged people to have their well water tested. He said at the meeting they asked if there was a representative from NCCI in the group, and no one spoke up.
“We made it clear this meeting was not just mud slinging and throwing arrows at them. We’re willing to listen to both sides. We’re willing to listen to what NCCI has to say. And it’s nothing, and it’s been that way ever since,” Marsh said.
Marsh said a number of people have sent in comments, but he thinks there are still others in the community who don’t know about the proposed expansion.
“Here’s a quarry no one wanted to begin with. It was forced upon us. We appealed it, and it was still forced upon us. We had good evidence for why it shouldn’t have been there, but it’s there,” Marsh said.
“We’re very concerned for our environment, our neighbourhood, and our community. We don’t want this to happen.”