A local environmentalist’s complaints about a discharge from the Lafarge Quarry on Sheridan Hill has prompted Pitt Meadows council to investigate hiring an environmental manager.
At last week’s meeting, Jack Emberly detailed for council how an anonymous source from the quarry contacted Scott Magri, of the Katzie Slough Restoration Project, asking him to look into a discharge from the quarry into the Pitt River.
Emberly and Magri canoed the river, and on March 9 found an area where silt was discharging from a pipe onto a wetland. Emberly worked to get the Ministry of Environment and city hall to investigate, and had Pitt Meadows engineering services coordinator Ike deBoer come with him to see the site. He was unable to get cooperation from senior government.
“What is the discharge, in what volume, over what period of time,” asked Emberly.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said city hall has also been frustrated in bringing senior government into the enforcement of its own regulations, and said he would like to see some “environmental capacity” at city hall “to deal with these kinds of concerns.”
He said city hill will not “be taking on the pipe by resolution.”
Lafarge eased concerns about the discharge.
“Lafarge uses water in its operations to wash the rock that is mined,” wrote communications director Jennifer Lewis. “We keep this water on site and, by using a series of man-made settling ponds, we are able to recycle the water for use again and again. The silt and sediment washed off the rock falls to the bottom of the settling ponds.”
She said the drainage pipe found by Emberly and Magri is used for pumping out rainwater that collects in the quarry. The pump is attached to a drainage line, which carries the rainwater to a large vegetated area on Lafarge property.
“Since the pump is at the bottom of our mining area, it can pick up rock dust in the flow when moving water out of the area. The purpose of the vegetated area is to allow that dust to settle out of the water before it flows into the Pitt River,” she said.
In a recent review with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, it was recommended that Lafarge give even more time for settling to occur, she said.
As a result, the company reduced the length of the pipe by approximately 200 feet and added large rocks to dissipate the speed of water flow, “so that there is plenty of time for settling.”
“We are proud of this effort, which minimizes the strain on Pitt River and is an example of how Lafarge is working on water stewardship across Canada,” she said.
Becker later said a new person may need to be hired for “environmental capacity” at city hall because existing staff will not likely have the appropriate skill set, or available time.
The new position would need expertise in environmental monitoring, enforcement and jurisdiction.
He said the city dealt with complaints about a half-sunken barge on the Alouette River, and senior government did not take charge. Similar environmental complaints have arisen since.
“The frustration on council goes back a decade,” he said.
“Hand wringing and finger pointing is no longer adequate.”
He said council will have to balance whether the benefit of such a position balance with the cost.
“It will go through the business planning process.”