Many groups that are opposed to specific aggregate operations are accused of “NIMBY-ism” The argument goes that we have to get aggregate from somewhere, so you should just get over it and move on.
While the fact that you simply don’t want a pit or quarry in your back yard may not be a good enough objection to stop an application, many of the impacts noted here shouldn’t be allowed in anyone’s back yard; or close to sensitive environmental areas, endangered species, cultural / heritage resources, Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI’s), etc.
There is nothing wrong with standing up to prevent unacceptable negative impacts – especially those that may be prohibited in various municipal legislation – from occurring in your community
Ask yourself which of these impacts are relevant in your case? Has the applicant taken adequate steps to prevent or minimize them? Is your municipality aware of the potential impacts and, if so, what are their intentions in addressing them? Is the municipality a potential ally in your campaign?
A great deal of noise is created by extraction, blasting (in quarries) moving of the raw aggregate, screening and crushing, washing, loading, truck traffic on haul routes and local roads, and other factors. Some of this noise can be mitigated with setbacks, berms, planting of vegetation, directional extraction (using the face of the extraction as a barrier), noise suppression equipment, etc.; but there will always be an increase in noise levels at nearby properties.
This noise can vary in impact from negligible to noticeable to objectionable. The vibration associated with extraction, blasting, crushing and transport can be objectionable and, if extreme, can cause structural damage to buildings, swimming pools, etc.
“Pits aren’t pretty.” With few or no exceptions, the view of a pit or quarry is not as pleasant as the view it will replace and, in many situations, can be downright objectionable. In the worst cases, beautiful scenery is replaced by a view of an industrial landscape, complete with massive stockpiles of aggregate (and perhaps recycling material and / or asphalt), crushers, drag lines, conveyors, asphalt plants, buildings and trucks. A view of a pleasant landscape is often replaced by a lifeless berm of earth, several feet high, and completely blocking the view. Even after the pit is exhausted and the berms are removed, what had previously been a rolling landscape is replaced by a flat, characterless plane.
Aggregate operations create dust – from extraction, from moving the aggregate, from screening and crushing, and from trucks entering and exiting the processing area. Fine particulate matter is a respiratory hazard. Airborne silica, a byproduct of aggregate processing, is a known carcinogen.
Suppression equipment and processes can reduce the release of dust and fine particulate matter into the air, but they can’t eliminate it. Diesel fumes from trucks and equipment, and fumes from asphalt plants can also have significant negative impacts.
A large aggregate operation can require dozens of heavy trucks per hour to enter and exit the pit, to carry aggregate to its destination. This traffic can in some cases totally alter traffic patterns many kilometres from the pit or quarry; and can have a negative impact on road safety. If there are residential areas, schools, horse-and-buggy traffic, or other “considerations” along the haul route, the safety issues can be magnified.
A study conducted by American researcher Diane Hite verified that pits and quarries have a negative impact on the value of nearby residential properties, and that these impacts are substantial – a property immediately adjacent to a pit could experience a loss in value of over 30%, while a property even as much as three miles away could experience a 5% loss. Moreover, she found that these impacts were immediate on the application for the pit being filed; they were not contingent on the pit actually being in operation.
Pits or quarries that extract near or into the water table, aquifers or aquitards (layers of soil that protect the underlying aquifers) can impact local wells, negatively affecting both quality and quantity of water available.
Aggregate operations put additional heavy traffic load on roads and bridges; in some cases necessitating upgrades prior to operations proceeding, and in all cases necessitating more frequent repair and replacement. With most municipalities already facing staggering infrastructure deficits, additional infrastructure costs can be a major burden on the municipalities affected.
Local municipalities should acknowledge the negative impact aggregate operations have on nearby property values, and instruct their assessors to account for that impact in assessments. This will result in lost tax revenues for municipalities and school boards, and these losses will have to be recouped through higher mill rates across the entire municipality.
Just as extraction can negatively impact private wells, it can also threaten the quality of public wells, and watershed protection areas. If a public well or a source water protection area supplying hundreds of homes is destroyed, the cost of alternative supply (replacement wells, pipelines, trucking) can cost the municipality millions of dollars.
Even the simplest aggregate application must be reviewed and studied, and a report / recommendation must be prepared and presented to council for zoning approval. Depending on the complexity of the application, additional information and consideration required, concerns, public opposition, and potential costs of hearings, the municipality’s cost of dealing with a zoning application can easily climb into hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond.
Some aggregate applications can be extremely unpopular with local residents (a.k.a. “voters”), and politicians who support or approve these applications can find their positions in jeopardy.
Does the science indicate the legislation will be violated?
Citizens Protect Irish Hills is a non-profit, entirely volunteer organization focused on the impact of proposed aggregate (sand and gravel) mining activity in Cambridge Township, MI. Your donation helps our efforts to oppose the gravel pit go that much farther. Thank you for your generosity!
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