NB government gives options to J.D. Irving mine project to deal with Upham residents on well water

Written by Tracy Glynn on June 10, 2019

Site of the proposed J.D. Irving gypsum mine in Upham, NB. Photo by Tracy Glynn.

The government of New Brunswick has sent a letter to Hammond River Holdings, owned by J.D. Irving Ltd., requiring the company take one of two courses of action to deal with Upham residents on well water near the proposed mine site but a concerned resident says the options are not good enough.

The proposed project involves extracting 2.5 million tons of gypsum from an open-pit mine, 100 metres east of the Hammond River, over 10 years. The Hammond River is home to Atlantic salmon, brook trout, smallmouth bass, rainbow smelt, striped bass and shortnose sturgeon.

The province is requiring that the company either get the consent of residents that live within 600 metres of the proposed mine or that they get an independent review done by an expert that shows that the residents’ well water will not be affected.

Sarah Blenis, founder of the Protect Upham Mountain Facebook page, does not want her neighbours to sign the consent forms and instead wants an independent expert on hydrogeology to assess the potential impact on her community’s well water. She also wants revisions made to legislation to better protect residents from mines and quarries.

“By not consenting, it will force the proponent to hire either an engineer or geoscientist to do a report on the potential impacts of the project on nearby wells. This report is crucial,” argues Blenis.

According to Blenis, the proponent has not fully evaluated the potential impacts from a hydrogeological perspective in their Environmental Impact Assessment.

To mitigate the potential water quality or quantity impacts, Hammond River Holdings is proposing drilling new wells or providing bottled water in their environmental impact assessment but that is not good enough, says Blenis.

“Projects, such as this, should have a professional documented report of how water will be affected before suggesting simple mitigation measures. Furthermore, this report will indirectly assess further potential negative impacts on the Hammond River, as this underground water source is shared by people’s wells and the river,” says Blenis.

Blenis wants to see amendments made to the provincial Mining Act so that quarries extracting any mineral are subjected to an environmental impact assessment. She also wants to see elements of the Quarry Siting Standards that protect residents on well water applied to the projects deemed to be mines.

Blenis is also working with her neighbours to monitor their water quality. In partnership with the Water Rangers Association, they plan to monitor the water quality of the Hammond River with Water Ranger kits: “Our ‘Hammond River Water Rangers Program’ will be up and running in a couple weeks. I see this project as uniting our community and part of making the necessary amendments to legislation that better protects our communities and waters from quarries.”

Tracy Glynn writes for the NB Media Co-op and is a doctoral researcher with RAVEN – Rural Action and Voices for the Environment.

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