Water Quantity Concerns with the Scotian Materials Fall River Quarry

In June of 2011, the same year that the proposed quarry was first discussed, a Fall River Community Planning Group Meeting was held to discuss proposals for multi-unit dwellings to provide adequate housing for seniors. However, a major stumbling block was the issue of water and septic services. The Committee noted that they couldn’t make commitments to allow increased density in Fall River because a recent watershed study “tells us that the groundwater table of the area is under a high degree of stress and there is a need of extension of water services to various areas in the Fall River area and Windsor Junction of Wellington” (Fall River Community Planning Group Meeting, June 2011, retrieved from https://www.halifax.ca/VisionHRM/FallRiver/documents/CPGMeeting06June2011.pdf).

The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has also noted that Fall River’s water sources are stressed: “In some areas, especially Fall River, the protective till cover is thin and these areas should be highlighted for aquifer protection” (DNR, 2011, retrieved from http://novascotia.ca/natr/meb/data/pubs/cs/cs_me_2011-002.pdf). Natural Resources also noted that, “Most of the province is underlain by bedrock aquifers where groundwater movement is controlled by fracture flow. These aquifers are sensitive to small changes in water level because they can result in the dewatering of critical groundwater-producing fractures. Local scale sustainability issues appear to be emerging in areas of medium to high density suburban unserviced growth that rely on these types of aquifers for water supply (e.g. Halifax suburbs)” (emphasis added, retrieved from http://novascotia.ca/natr/meb/data/mg/ofi/pdf/ofi_2010-002_dp.pdf).

An examination of the well database for the area (which is incomplete and in some cases incorrect) gave the following results with respect to well yields:

 

Fall River Quarry and Well Yield Information

 

It is particularly noticeable that the vast majority of wells in the area closest to the proposed quarry (Perrin, Preakness, Mornington, Oakbank, Delray, Sanctuary, also those referred to by Scotian Materials in the application) do not yield the recommended amount of water flow. The recommended yield is 18-20 litres per minute according to Nova Scotia Environment (http://novascotia.ca/nse/water/docs/WellWaterBooklet6.pdf), and not 9 litres per minute as Scotian Materials stated in the application.

With well depths varying between 200 and 500 feet it’s difficult to say where the deep aquifer is located or if there is a shallow aquifer based on these logs alone. However, using the information from the Nova Scotia Groundwater Atlas (https://fletcher.novascotia.ca/DNRViewer/?viewer=Groundwater), water well logs retrieved from those closest to the site paint a different picture (see figure on next page). The data from the closest wells on all sides of the proposed footprint show that there are water bearing fractures at depths of 12 to 67m. Given that the application contains no information about any wells on the proponent’s property or other measurements about the water table, how would Nova Scotia Environment know if they are quarrying below the water table when the quarry floor, proposed at 22m deep, is so close to the depths at which water bearing fractures were found at adjacent properties?

We decided to examine the distance to sea level of these properties. From this very basic modelling, using information from the DNR maps, it appears to me that it is very likely indeed that Scotian Materials will in fact be quarrying below the water table or into a shallow aquifer (see figure on next page). We suggested that at minimum Nova Scotia Environment request that Scotian Materials provides the information they are relying on to know that they are quarrying above the water table (although we would prefer of course to see government-based scientific research be the determiner).

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The only place we could find any estimation by Scotian Materials of the depth of the water table in the area of the proposed quarry site was in the application to HRM to change the Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-Law by Scotian Materials, which was subsequently denied. There, president Rob MacPherson (who signs his letters with the professional engineer signature) used the average depth of water-bearing fractures of nearby wells, which he says is 33m (page 14). And we thought engineering meant more than taking a simple average! No regard was shown to the elevation of the wells, the distance from the site, nor the actual or modelled depth of the water table at the proposed quarry site. When it comes to quarrying below the water table, this is when most effects on nearby wells are seen. Our modelling, which was repeated by the Forest Watershed Research Center with exact coordinates (shown in the image above), shows a very distinct possibility that the depth of the proposed quarry at 22m would indeed exceed the depth of the water table. Previous applications for a quarry at this site by Northern Construction show evidence that the quarry operator was 1) planning on extracting far more aggregate from a 3.9ha plot than was possible if the quarry was to remain above the water table and 2) the quarry operator asked Nova Scotia Environment exactly how close they could get to the water table without instigating a hydrological study. Not exactly comforting to those living close to the proposed site of the Fall River Quarry/ Goffs Quarry and who rely on well water for daily activities such as drinking, brushing teeth, bathing children.

XI. PROTECTION OF GROUNDWATER RESOURCES

Prior to any excavation below the watertable a hydrological study will be required and approval must be obtained from the Minister or Administrator.

The above is a direct quote from the Nova Scotia Pit and Quarry Guidelines. A hydrological study was ordered by Nova Scotia Environment based on the information we provided. We have yet to hear any results.

Some of our neighbours have let us know that the well logs are not entirely accurate nor up to date. Five neighbours in Fall River have reported requiring hydro-fracking which increased their yield only marginally in some cases. At least two had to drill deeper. Four have run dry. One put in a cistern. One reported a pH of 4.2. One reported silt in valves and a punctured pressure tank bladder when there was blasting nearby for residential homes. Several reported not being in the database or the database being incorrect. Many report having to keep an eye on water usage. We would suggest from the information provided above that the application for “Goffs Quarry” is far from complete when it comes to data about water supply, aquifers and the water table.

Member of the Nova Scotia Road Builder’s Association Robert MacPherson. Scotian Materials Limited. Rob MacPherson. Contact. Address: 100 Venture Run, Suite 103. Dartmouth. #scotianmaterials scotianmaterials.com scotianmaterials.info scotianmaterials.ca Halifax quarry quarries aggregate gravel #noFRquarry  Scotian Materials Ltd.