Commentary: Perception is reality
It is tempting to dismiss this public reaction as overreaction
By Andy Bateman
The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour is now in the news again, this time for approving a quarry proposal on North Mountain in Granville without an environmental assessment.
The November/December 2007 issue of Aggregates & Roadbuilding included commentary by editor Bob Consedine on the rejection of a quarry and mine terminal proposal by Bilcon of Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour is now in the news again, this time for approving a quarry proposal on North Mountain in Granville without an environmental assessment. This much smaller quarry, proposed by B. Spicer Construction, was exempt from an environmental assessment as the subject property is less than 3.9 hectares. However, the March 20, 2008 edition of the Chronicle Herald reports that the approval is already being appealed by three environmental groups who assert that the proposal’s total footprint exceeds four hectares. Residents are also said to fear "quarry creep" or the development of multiple small quarries. Either way, targeted production of the Spicer quarry at just 50 000 tonnes, requiring one or two blasts each year, certainly marks it as a small operation.
Public concerns about the Spicer quarry include water quality, drilling and blasting, dust, truck haul routes, property values and visual impact, to mention just a few from the familiar list. Absent specific project details early on in the process, there were even concerns about concerns, or as one resident put it; "In a way, we don’t know what to be afraid of." Proponent Bruce Spicer was himself taken aback by scale of the public reaction which, as he saw it, unfairly lumped the Spicer proposal with the altogether bigger and more complex Bilcon proposal.
For anyone in the aggregate business, it is tempting to dismiss this public reaction as overreaction. Given the operation’s small size, it is probable that most of the operational impacts will be equally small. Its entire annual sales inventory, for example, could be produced in a few weeks by portable equipment, with a minimal level of activity for the rest of the year apart from customer truck loading and scaling. Even beyond the front gate, truck volumes will be relatively low and hopefully a careful choice of haul routes will further reduce already modest truck impacts.
But that is not the point. A sector of the public and the trio of environmental groups perceive the quarry as bad news, regardless of size, and that perception has to be recognised. Here, perception is reality.