OMYA's quarry plans spark fears
Dave Rogers
The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, July 11, 2002

OMYA wants to quadruple production at its Tatlock calcium carbonate quarry.
The Ottawa Citizen
(See hard copy for graphic).
Lanark Highlands Township is considering an official plan amendment that would allow the Swiss multinational company OMYA to expand its calcium carbonate quarry north of Perth, greatly increasing heavy-truck traffic on narrow rural roads.

Residents of Lanark, about 16 kilometres north of Perth, say OMYA's plan to quadruple production at the quarry will mean one 40-tonne ore truck on the village's main street every three minutes, 365 days a year. They say the heavy trucks will create a major traffic safety problem and cause so much noise and vibration that residents' sleep will be disturbed.

OMYA operates 130 processing plants in 30 countries, making it the largest calcium carbonate producer in the world. It sells a mixture of water and ground white calcium carbonate the consistency of mustard to makers of toothpaste, paper, hockey pucks, plastics, paint, cleansers, ceiling tile, cosmetics, calcium pills and even chewing gum.

Lanark Highlands council is to consider a proposal this fall from OMYA to have all of its 800-hectare property near Tatlock designated as aggregate resource land in the township's official plan. The old official plan makes reference to quarries, but does not identify their location. Much of the land is zoned for rural use.

The township has a population of about 5,000 permanent residents and 5,500 cottagers.

OMYA in 1997 received a licence from Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources to increase production at its Tatlock quarry to four million tonnes of calcium carbonate a year from one million tonnes. John Duchene, the township's chief administrative officer, said the company now needs the official plan amendment and a further licence to use all of its property.

These plans have already upset Perth-area residents, who oppose OMYA's request to take 4.5-million litres of water a day from the Tay River. The company has appealed an Environmental Review Tribunal decision limiting the water it takes from the Tay to 1.5 million litres a day.

Now Lanark Highlands residents fear heavy trucks from the quarry will shatter the peace of rural communities along County Road 511.

Lanark resident Ken Potter, who owns four houses on George Street, said he has trouble sleeping because one truck from the quarry passes his house every four minutes each night. He expects one truck in either direction every three minutes when the Tatlock quarry reaches maximum production.

"The trucks are running 24 hours a day, primarily at night," Mr. Potter said.

"There will be noise, vibration and dust -- it will be a constant onslaught from open ore carriers. When you have a 40-tonne ore truck loaded fully, you can't stop it easily. We have two school zones in Lanark village."

"Our main economic benefit is tourism," Mr. Potter said. "People come up to Lanark to see a quiet little village. If they go to four million tonnes a year, it will devastate the village and the entire County Road 511 corridor. If our pristine natural environment and our quality of life is destroyed, we will lose in the long run."

Michael Cassidy, a former NDP MP who owns a cottage on a lake near Tatlock, said OMYA should be responsible for reducing any problems caused by trucking.

Lanark Highlands Mayor Larry McDermott said township councillors are concerned about truck noise and the difficulty getting ore carriers around two 90-degree corners in Lanark. "Some people see the quarry's economic importance and others see the inconvenience of the traffic," Mr. McDermott said. "We need to look at the impact of expansion. If they go to four million tonnes a year, something will have to be done to mitigate the noise levels and streamline the traffic flow.

"A bypass around Lanark is being considered, but the big question is who is going to pay for it. It would cost millions of dollars."

OMYA's 1997 quarry application to the Ministry of Natural Resources said there is no negative economic impact related to the quarry. The application says OMYA Canada Inc. will provide berms, tree planting, fences and a lookout to "improve the esthetics of the quarry operation."

Larry Sparks, the company's plant administrator in Perth, wouldn't comment on any of the residents' specific concerns. Any bypass around Lanark should be a municipal responsibility, he said. Mr. Sparks said the company is working with the municipality on transportation and economic studies of the trucking corridor.

Mr. Sparks said the official plan amendment was primarily being made to ensure the land would not be used for something else.