PROTECTING OUR WATER: AT THE TAP
From source to tap, Guelph's water supply is under threat.
Here's how we can protect it.
Many residents aren't aware that Guelph has an active pit mine two kilometers from the downtown core: the Dolime Quarry, owned by Carson Reid of Carson Reid Homes, where crushed stone and aggregates are mined for the local building industry.
In 2008, blasting at the quarry exposed the aquifer that provides Guelph's water, creating a direct entry point for any chemical or biological contaminants. Even worse is that the southwest side of Guelph is built on a particularly free-flowing section of the aquifer, which would allow any contamination to spread quickly between wells.
The problem is two-fold: not only are contaminants conducted quickly through the system, but to keep the quarry dry enough to mine, water must be pumped from the aquifer directly into the Speed River. This pumping wastes millions of liters a day — as much as the Nestlé Waters plant — and it's poured straight down the drain.
As Guelph grows, we will need to secure new high-quality water sources. According to the city's Water Supply Master Plan, we're going to need to add about 33,000 cubic meters of water per day of capacity to meet the demand, at a capital cost of about $36 million. If we close the quarry, the water it wastes would be available at wells we already have, and that capital cost would drop to just $30 million.
On the other hand, if a major contamination event occurs and takes our southwestern quadrant wells offline, it would cost Guelph at least $75 million to make up the difference with new water sources... and we'd have to start drawing directly from Guelph Lake, losing a defining feature of our community — our groundwater — as a result.
So, what will I do about it?
My long-term vision for the quarry lands is straightforward. The quarry is the keystone in a sorely-needed West End system of trails and conservation lands that, when complete, can stretch unbroken from Clair Road to Speedvale. It will serve not only as a recreational opportunity but also as a cycling route to better integrate the West End with the rest of Guelph.
First, we'll need to perform the required site remediation to protect our aquifer. Once our water supply is safe, we can work to preserve the site. By annexing this land into Guelph and zoning it as a conservation area, we can keep it for future generations, and even create a new recreational destination.
Closing the quarry won't be easy. The process will need to include all stakeholders: citizens, quarry workers, and the quarry owner Carson Reid will all be impacted. The quarry must close, but we also need to make sure the workers aren’t left behind. The Guelph I know takes care of its own.
That’s why I'm prepared to work closely with those stakeholders, along with various levels of government: City Hall, the Township of Guelph-Eramosa, the Grand River Conservation Authority, and even the provincial government: so we can finally fix this problem once and for all, without leaving anybody behind.
Closing the quarry protects everybody in Guelph, and just makes economic sense.
Stop the Dolime Quarry: we have to close and fix the quarry before it's too late.
Image credit: Matt Saunders. Released to the public under the Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 3.0.