Rock to Road

News
Bridging the environmental gap


October 22, 2009
By Andy Bateman

It is easy to forget on a daily basis just how important aggregates are
to all of us. In addition to supplying the large users such as
roadbuilding and residential construction, aggregates play a vital role
in numerous other applications.

It is easy to forget on a daily basis just how important aggregates are to all of us. In addition to supplying the large users such as roadbuilding and residential construction, aggregates play a vital role in numerous other applications. To quote the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: “There is also demand for aggregate resources by the manufacturing sector to produce steel, vinyl, glass, paint, paper, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, cement, insulation and landscaping products.”
 
Less well known, but just as important, are the many environmental uses for aggregates.  Back to the ministry: “Aggregates are used in numerous environmental applications that protect and improve our environment: drinking water and waste systems use specialty sands for filtering; fluid bed smoke stack scrubbers use limestone to neutralize acid emissions prior to release into the atmosphere; quarried limestone (agricultural lime) is used to improve agricultural soil condition and produce organic fertilizers; aggregates are used to coat paper to make it white rather than using a chemical bleaching process to whiten wood fibre; gravel is used to improve or create spawning beds for fish habitat such as trout, walleye and bass; and quarried rock, in the form of rip-rap and gabion baskets, is used to protect shorelines from erosion and filter storm water basins.”

Given these myriad applications, particularly those to “protect and improve our environment”, one might expect the public’s views on aggregate extraction to be at least somewhere near neutral. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Rather, common responses to new or increased extraction include absolute “truths” on the adverse environmental impacts. The water supply will be harmed. The trucks will be dangerous. The noise will be unbearable. The land will never grow good crops again, and so on.
 
For the aggregate industry, there is still plenty of work to do to bridge the environmental gap, demystify the industry and point out its positive environmental impacts.
 
How about “The many environmental applications for aggregates” as the theme for your next community relations meeting?

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