Since approval of Alva’s submission by the Minister of Environment for a more than ten-fold expansion in scope (size and production/transportation rate) of the Maritime Rock Quarry in Georgeville, community members in the affected area have been active in trying to reach an understanding and possible reconciliation of the discrepancy between the terms approved and the widely published insistence that the rate of production will remain within the rates of the current (past) scale of operation. This document outlines some of the communications, meetings, and other activities undertaken since the date of approval.
The Minister and his staff claim that the Terms and Conditions (PDF) subject to the approval mitigate adverse effects. The truth is: They don’t when it comes to socio-economic concerns. These terms completely fail to limit production levels and truck traffic and they also fail to provide a non-quarry-able buffer zone towards neighboring land developments. The document Full documentation of Alva’s Environmental Assessment Registration process and what went wrong (PDF) explains in more detail why these Terms and Conditions have absolutely no teeth.
It’s not getting better – correspondence with the Manager of the EA Branch
Although the Minister received more than 100 submissions from members of the public pointing out the flaws of the Environmental Assessment process as well as the incorrect, fabricated and misleading information provided in Alvas Registration Documents, he still approved the proposed undertaking without putting adequate restrictions in place to limit production levels and truck traffic at least to the status quo. The Terms and Conditions (PDF) which apply to the approval fail to address any socio economic aspects in a meaningful way. They do not limit future production levels to current quarry operations, although government officials always insisted that future “production levels and truck traffic will be consistent with current quarry operations”. Here are some communications on this matter:
The official project information provided by the Environmental Assessment Branch, all along the EA process, was that production levels and truck traffic will be consistent with current operation (Image and PDF). Steffen Mangold, a neighbor of Alva’s quarry operation, asked the manager of the Environmental Assessment Branch, after the approval for Alva’s undertaking was issued on January 9th, 2011, if this approval would allow Alva Construction to increase production levels. He emailed back in March 2012: “Alva does not anticipate any change to the way in which they have operated over the last ten years.” Even after having received over 100 submissions in December 2011 pointing out that Alva Construction anticipated a more than 13 fold increase in production levels on page 1 of their Registration Documents and that government officials would provide false information by stating the opposite, the person in charge of the EA Branch in Halifax, who briefed the Minister before he made his decision, still refused in March 2012 to acknowledge the most basic facts of Alva’s application. He also mentioned in a correspondence letter with the same neighbor on February 23rd 2012, his (Steffen Mangold) future development. He missed basic facts - again. This neighbor had and still has an existing and fully approved (with the “stamp” of the Department of Environment) subdivision in place. It is not a “future development” as described by the manager of the EA Branch and later in a letter by the Minister of Environment. From this perspective it is no surprise that the Minister’s decision was ill-informed and wrong. Since April 2012 this manager is no longer with the EA Branch.
In April 2012 Steffen Mangold asked the new Acting Manager of the EA Branch why his adjacent subdivision was not mentioned / shown in Alva’s application documents nor in any of the previous draft versions. This question refers to the issue that government authorities who were in charge of the application process did not request Alva to correct false information provided in draft documents prior to their final report. It is the duty of the people in charge to ensure that most accurate information is provided by the proponent with the Final Registration Documents. This is the reason for an official information gathering process taking place prior to the Registration of this quarry expansion project. The new Acting Manager, who was in charge of Alvas quarry extension project within the EA Branch from the beginning, replied on April 3rd to the question why the adjacent subdivision wasn’t mentioned in Alva’s Final Report: “There is no requirement to do so”.
The next question asked was why other neighboring residential land developments weren’t shown in Alva’s Registration documents nor in any previous draft version of it. Answer: “You should contact the company or consultant to have this clarified.”
Next question: “Why were other pits and quarries shown in the near vicinity of Alva’s quarry extension project which simply don’t exist / operate anymore?” Answer: “Abandoned pits and quarries often show up on mapping.”
The issue here is that the “abandoned pit” in the near vicinity had been turned into a residential waterfront and water view subdivision about 20 years ago. All lots have been approved by the Department of Environment to be suitable for septic systems and all lots have already been sold as residential properties many years ago. This could not have been missed. It is misleading to still show this fully developed subdivision as gravel pit. This “pit” was not operating since the mid. 90’s. The EA Branch allowed the proponent to use outdated maps with false and misleading information instead of requiring accurate data from the proponent. Since the Department of Environment is in charge of septic approvals for residential developments and also for approvals for pits and quarries they must pick up on the outdated information provided by Alva in regards to land use in the near area. The Acting Manager of the EA Branch showed in emails that she obviously didn’t understand the purpose of the information gathering process prior to the Registration of a class 1 Undertaking. It is the job of the EA Branch and other involved government authorities to ensure that the most-accurate information had been provided with the registration documents by proponents so a reliable due diligence can be performed and as a result of that a well informed decision can be made by the Minister. In our situation the opposite was the case.
We just received the news (May 2012) that the new Acting Manager of the EA Branch is no longer with the Branch. Another New Acting Manager just started to fill in.
Two managers have left the EA Branch since we’ve shown the flaws in the process and highly criticized the ill-informed and wrong approval. The official version stays the same: No mistakes have been made in the decision making process.
Help from the Minister?
The Minister was asked by Joy Hanley on behalf of the Mini Trail Quarry Concerns Society and from Steffen Mangold in separate letters to give reasons for his decision (here and here). He replied by providing reasons (here and here), but he failed to explain how the clauses contained in the Terms and Conditions of the approval will effectively deal with the local socio-economic impact that will result from the fact that Alva now has approved increases in activity levels that it can act upon at its unilateral discretion. All clauses mentioned in the Ministers letter which were put in place to mitigate adverse effects in regards to socio economic impact have no teeth or completely fail such as the size-restriction of the active area for the quarry not being allowed to be larger than 10 ha at a time. Given that the existing quarry only used 3.5 ha over 15 years and less than 0.5 ha at a time, this restriction is laughable.
We met with the executive assistance of the Premier of Nova Scotia, Honorable Darrell Dexter, together with the executive assistance of the Minister of the Environment, Honorable Sterling Belliveau, and presented our case. Although they seemed to take our concerns seriously they have not been in contact with us since. Despite responding to further letters (here and here and here) the Minister of Environment has yet to agree to meet us.
Our ask is to limit production levels and truck traffic to the volume it has been over the past 15 years in order to ensure that truck traffic and production levels will be consistent with current quarry operations as always advertised and promised by government authorities before the approval was issued by the Minister.
Since there is a second level of approval which is the Operating / Industrial Approval, there is a second chance to get restrictions in production levels truck traffic in place before Alva Construction can take advantage of the Environmental Assessment approval.
Our goal is to get the Department of Environment and the Minister of Environment to place these restrictions on the Industrial / Operating Approval. It is expected that Alva Construction will apply for this second approval any time soon.