Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Residents cry foul over asphalt plant on aquifer

Springfield RM to allow use of mobile facility

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Concerns are being raised over a decision by the RM of Springfield to allow a mobile asphalt plant to set up on top of an aquifer that hundreds of people depend on for their water.

The RM of Springfield voted 3-2 Wednesday night to allow Mulder Construction to place the temporary asphalt plant on a municipal-owned gravel pit immediately north of the Pine Ridge Golf and Country Club.

Resident Patricia Rivard said she believes the proposal was snuck onto the council agenda with little notice, adding there were a lot of problems associated with a similar plant operated by Mulder on the same site in 2005.

"We went to the meeting (Wednesday night) but council acted like their minds were made up," Rivard said. "They didn't listen to what anyone had to say."

Springfield reeve Peter Skrupski said he and another councillor voted against the project but added that despite his opposition he believes there are enough safeguards to ensure the plant doesn't damage the aquifer or the surrounding environment.

The mobile plant will be sited atop what's known as the Birds Hill aquifer, Skrupski said, adding nearby residents in three RMs (Springfield, East St. Paul and St. Clements) depend on the water, plus residents in the towns of Dugald and Oakbank.

However, Skrupski said council placed several conditions on the project before it can proceed, including that Mulder prepare a one-metre thick, compacted clay liner on the site where the equipment will be used and that a rubber liner be placed on top of that.

Skrupski said the mobile plant that Mulder will be using is state of the art and there is only a remote likelihood of the aquifer being contaminated.

Jason Ludke, general manager of the Pine Ridge Golf and Country Club, said he was surprised to see the proposal on the agenda, adding he spoke against it at the Wednesday night meeting.

"Our concerns are the smell and the fumes and that it's being built on an aquifer, which is where we get our drinking water from," Ludke said. "In 2005, we had issues with the Mulder plant. Our members wrote letters. It can have a financial impact on us."

Lawrence Morris, mayor of the RM of East St. Paul, said his municipality wasn't notified about the Mulder project, adding his staff will be reviewing its operations.

Skrupski said the Mulder mobile plant is now operating near Starbuck and will be moved once an agreement with the municipality has been approved by both sides. Asphalt plants move to temporary locations to stay close to customers, such as construction crews, who require the product.

Mulder officials could not be reached for comment.

Skrupski said public notice of the proposal complied with the RM's requirements, adding it was noted on the agenda which was available three days before the meeting. A senior Conservation Department official said the Mulder mobile plant was licensed in 2008, adding, however, that department staff will inspect the site before the plant goes into operation and will monitor the facility afterwards.

"We know there is concern about this operation and we commit to give this plant a higher priority, to inspect it before it begins operation," Tracey Braun, director of environmental assessment and licensing for Conservation, said.

Braun said she expects little chance of ground contamination from Mulder's new plant because of its design, adding that all oil and other petroleum-based products must be stored in a leak-proof facility.

should run today, meeting was Wednesday night

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2009 B3

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