By David F. Rooney
The City has “failed both morally and ethically in all matters” regarding the Westside Road Gravel Pit and has even failed to uphold the BC Community Charter, which gives municipalities a mandate to protect people’s health, says a Revelstokian who has for years struggled against the gravel mine.
Andrews attempted to be included as a delegation on the agenda for Council’s afternoon meeting on Tuesday, June 25, but was rebuffed.
“They said I was too late to be included,” he said.
Accompanied by North Columbia Environmental Society director Jody Lownds,who is also a lawyer, Andrews spoke with Tim Palmer, Revelstoke’s Chief Administrative Officer, last week but was less than satisfied with that conversation.
“Basically he said it (the gravel pit) was not within the City’s jurisdiction,” Lownds said on Saturday.
To be fair to Tim Palmer, the City’s CAO is a civil servant. He’s a decent and intelligent man but he does not set policy. He implements Council’s policy direction and its decisions. Expecting him to say anything other than what he did say is unrealistic.
Late Monday afternoon Palmer said he explained to them that “we don’t have direct control over mining operations within city boundaries,” but noted that Council can lobby the provincial government on this issue, should it choose to do so.
But Andrews maintains that the 120-acre gravel pit is within the city’s jurisdiction. After his fruitless talk with Palmer, he spent last weekend crafting a letter to Council. In that document, which you can read by clicking here, he said: “It is the opinion of those that have been most adversely affected by the crystalline silica dust that the City of Revelstoke has failed both morally and ethically in all matters concerning this gravel pit.”
He says the City has the power under both the Public Health Act and the Community Charter to act when something threatens human health.
“Ref. the Public Health Act Division 6 — Local Governments Role of local government 83 (1) A local government must do all of the following: (a) if the local government becomes aware of a health hazard or health impediment within its jurisdiction, take an action required by a regulation made under section 120 report the health hazard or health impediment to a health officer, This has not been upheld
“The Community Charter has also not been upheld to protect our health.
Community Charter [SBC 2003] CHAPTER 26 Part 2 — Municipal Purposes and Powers Division 1 — Purposes and Fundamental Powers Municipalities and their councils Fundamental powers 8 (3) A council may, by bylaw, regulate, prohibit and impose requirements in relation to the following: (g) the health, safety or protection of persons or property in relation to matters referred to in section 63 [protection of persons and property]; (i) public health; The authority of a council under section 8 (3) (h) [spheres of authority — nuisances disturbances and other objectionable situations] may be exercised in relation to the following: (a) nuisances; (b) noise, vibration, odour, dust, illumination or any other matter that is liable to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of individuals or the public; (c) the emission of smoke, dust, gas, sparks, ash, soot, cinders, fumes or other effluvia that is liable to foul or contaminate the atmosphere;
“The health of many of the residents of the Columbia Park that live adjacent to the gravel pit has been compromised from inhalation of the Crystalline Silica Dust that they are exposed to from this gravel pit. There are cases of children suffering with severe asthma, elderly residents suffering from acute COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Long-term exposure to lung irritants such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust contribute to COPD. Rheumatoid arthritis, and many other medical problems all of which are linked to the inhalation of crystalline silica. (Inhaling) crystalline silica (quartz) can cause silicosis, a fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs. Silicosis may be progressive; it may lead to disability and death. Lung Cancer Crystalline silica (quartz) inhaled from occupational sources is classified as carcinogenic to humans…. Some studies show excess numbers of cases of scleroderma, connective tissue disorders, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic kidney diseases when exposed to respirable crystalline silica. It is a long-term low-level exposure that is the most harmful.”
Andrews also said the “tenure should not be renewed due to the fact that the gravel pit operator’s inability to be able to comply with the mine permit conditions.”
He refers to “Mine permit #G-4-188 page 8 section 24 (which) states that dust originating from the mine site shall be controlled at the source. Dust shall not be allowed to impact adjacent private properties. “
Interoute does have a dust-control system operating at the pit but Andrews claims it is ineffective.
Andrews is gratified by the North Columbia Environmental Society’s decision to support his demands with their own letter that was sent to Council last week. But he remains very, very frustrated by the City’s apparent refusal to deal with this issue as he would like it to do.
He said he would attend Tuesday’s Council meeting at 3 pm.
Palmer said his letter has been added to the agenda as a late or ‘walk-in’ submission. However, there is no guarantee that City councilors will actually ask him questions or, indeed, do anything with it beyond referring it to staff.
Fighting gravel pit operations can be very expensive, as Peachland discovered. It fought a gravel pit’s operations all the way to the BC Court of Appeal and lost. Please click here to read how that happened.
So far no one has taken Interoute or Valley Blacktop to court over the Westside pit. But Peachland’s experience is certainly a cautionary tale. Meanwhile, CBC Radio is taking a poke at this issue. Andrews has spoken with one of their reporters and a story about Revelstoke’s gravel pit woes will be on CBC Radio at 7:50 am on Tuesday morning.
Revelstoke City Council meets on Tuesday, June 25 at 3 pm. Its regular meetings are open to the public.