Gravel Pits

Crystalline silica is a type 1 carcinogen.
Gravel pits shouldn’t be so close to homes.
We will advocate for the health & safety of the residents.

Gravel Pits

Crystalline silica is a type 1 carcinogen. Gravel pits shouldn’t be so close to homes. We will advocate for the health & safety of the residents.

According to the SWCRR Information Session poster board, a gravel pit and haul road was selected just south of Old Banff Coach Road SW between 101st Street SW and the community of Wentworth.  However, Alberta Transportation fails to include the following information on these poster boards:

  • There is an existing commercial gravel pit just north of Old Banff Coach Hill road
  • Article 33 of the Tsuu T’ina Land Transfer Agreement provides the Nation with opportunities for employment, use of their businesses and extraction of resources on their land, including sand and gravel.  Details are included in Schedule 13.
  • An Alberta Occupational Health & Safety Bulletin states, “Exposure to crystalline silica can cause a number of health problems, including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema, as well as pulmonary tuberculosis”. 
  • In 1997 the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there was enough scientific evidence to suggest that occupational exposure to respirable quartz and cristobalite can cause cancer. Quartz and cristobalite are classified as “Group 1, carcinogenic to humans”, see page 211 of the IARC Report.
  • The Alberta Government’s own Silica Study notes the following:
    • OHS exposure assessment results for sand and mineral processing and aggregate mining and crushing exceeded the occupational exposure levels (OEL) by 82 – 100% 
    • OHS legislation does not address ambient dust levels or public safety from dust emissions
    • Samples were collected upwind and downwind of the work sites
    • Even at 0.025 mg/m3 (2.5 ug/m3) there is an excess risk for silicosis well above that for the normal population
  • Alberta Environment & Parks main regulatory requirement is a “Code of Practice‟ for pits. This is a “Do it Yourself‟ approach to regulation whereby an operator is allowed to file its own regulatory requirements but must report on those activities once every five years.

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In some places the gravel is piled 15 metres higher than the protective berm. Residents have asked, "what is the point of the protective berm".? They also note that all of the site renderings had the gravel pile below the top of the berm like its supposed to. The wind whips across the top of this pile all day long depositing gravel dust in the community.

Wentworth Gravel Pit
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Residents are asking why is this gravel pit & crusher so close to a residential community and schools. Residents have documented proof that the dust is stratified in the snow by a hockey rink that is 500 metres away. Crystalline silica is a class 1 carcinogen and thje health and safety of the community should be the first priority.

Wentworth Gravel Pit
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Alberta Transportation continues to insist that all is OK and that they are complying with the legislation. However, tell this to the residents where gravel dust is piling up on their patios. Moreover, if the larger and heavier particulate matter is airborne, what about the lighter and smaller PM2.5 that can cause serious respiratory disorders, including silicosis.

Wentworth Gravel Pit
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The Alberta Transportation poster board also notes the following:

  • This location provides close access to a costly non-renewable gravel resource
    • Reduces cost for the SWCRR
    • Reduces impacts of hauling

So as one can clearly see, the economic cost of the project and been placed well above the health 7 safety concerns of the community.  The Land Stewardship Act (2009) was established to integrate all legislation related to air, land, water and biodiversity.  This legislation also requires decision makers to incorporate the economic, environmental and social aspects of a project and to take into account the cumulative impacts of our human endeavors .  The legislation also created 7 regional plans and the approved South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (2014 – 2024) is relevant for this area.  While the introduction, strategy and implementation sections of the Regional Plan are not binding on decision makers, they must demonstrate that they have taken them into account when making decisions and approvals.  The Act, Regulations and Regulatory Details (included with the Regional Plan) are binding on decision makers and the Regulatory Details provides includes Part 2 which appears to have been ignored.  Moreover, any change that may have a cumulative impact elsewhere within the Region must go through a public consultation process and secure a “variance” approval from the Minister of Environment & Parks.  When did this public consultation take place and where is the approved variance from the SSRP?

In correspondence from a Wentworth resident to Alberta Transportation, they state, “At some point in time of either Oct, Nov, or December of 2015, our back yard was flagged as a source for aggregate.  Two questions:
1) Why did it take over a year to tell us about it?  And I want to stress the word “tell”, because it was not consultation.  You had one year to consult with us prior to telling us in Dec 2016, you just chose not to.
2) I have gone through a lot of material on the Alberta Transportation site as well as KGL’s.  No where can I find any indication that the residences were even a discussion point for this project.   The fact we are the closest residences to a 4 year crushing operation is concerning.   Were we simply forgotten?  I would consider us stakeholders in this project, would you agree?”
The response from Alberta Transportation is as follows:
“The area of the TUC south of Old Banff Coach Road was provided to the bidders for the southwest Calgary Ring Road (SWCRR) as an optional aggregate source for the project. It was not a requirement for the bidders to use this source, but expected that the option could benefit both the SWCRR project, and future West Calgary Ring Road project, by allowing the gradeline to be lowered through this area through the removal of the aggregate removal. Once the successful bidder was chosen (KGL), and they confirmed their intention to utilize this area for aggregate, we worked with KGL on the information session which occurred in December 2016 to notify residents and the public. As I mentioned when we met, this information could have been communicated better, however our intention was to not come forward with potential options until they were confirmed.”
As one can see, economics has precedent over health & safety and all Alberta Transportation can state is that “the information could have been communicated better”.   
No wonder residents are outraged.

Gravel pit operations in and around Calgary include warning signs that alert all that enter the site that its a “crystalline silica work area” and that respirators are required. However, all that shows up at the top of the berm behind Wentworth area homes is a “do not enter” sign that is along most of the SWCRR TUC corridor.  This once again demonstrates a lack of concern for the residents health & safety and these homes are within 100 m of the centre of the pit and crushing plant.  Many are there 24/7 and all that is in place are upwind particulate matter sensors to measure the ambient or background levels of particulate matter. 

Regarding the upwind sensors on the west side of the pit, many of the residents have expressed their concern about the lack of downwind sensors to the Alberta Transportation project manager and the reply that they receive is:

“I have discussed the possibility of moving the air quality monitoring station from west side of the gravel operation to the east side with Alberta Health Services, but they supported the current location.”

This is nonsense, the Alberta Government’s own Silica Study included both upwind an downwind sensors.  The upwind sensors as noted in this study were simply there to determine the ambient levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere.  Downwind sensors captured the elevated levels of particulate matter that were due to the operation.  To explain this another way, let’s consider that an operator is polluting a river.  How do you prove that its not from natural causes?  To alleviate this concern, one places monitors upstream to look at natural or ambient levels.  The sensors downstream are there to capture the impact from the facility.  If the downstream readings are above or well above ambient (upstream) then its clear that the operator is polluting.  This is environmental and health & safety 101 so why are these sensors missing.  Without these sensors residents and local area schools can’t determine if they have to evacuate because of dangerous levels  of silica dust in the air. 

In December 2017, Councillor Jeff Davison (Ward 6) intervened.  At a news conference he was quoted as stating, “the dust monitors are placed in spots that don’t properly measure critical levels”.  He also states, “the province is ignoring a serious problem that could have dire, long-term effects” and “it’s right on top of these people . . . it’s a major health concern and the province isn’t doing anything about it”.  Councillor Davison has called on the Province to move the pit and has insisted on particulate matter sensors on the east side of the pit (prevailing down wind location and adjacent to the resident’s homes).  Alberta Transportation agreed, however, as these January 5, 2018 images prove, the plant was operational on January but all that was on the east side of the pit were a series of solar panels that appeared to be simply charging batteries.  The air and wind monitoring station was south of the pit which once again does nothing regarding alleviating the residents concerns about health and safety.

In the December 17, 2017 Calgary Herald news article also notes the following:

  • a local resident took video and still shots overlooking the operation near his home with his smartphone that appeared to show waves of dust and a particle fog
  • An Alberta Transportation official said rock crushers at other similar sites in Alberta were 250 to 300 metres from homes.
  • Dust monitors are placed in spots that don’t properly measure critical levels
  • Unlike at least one other Calgary gravel operation, which posts online air and noise monitoring results, similar data can’t be found for the pit operated by KGL
  • You ask (provincial officials) where the data is and they don’t respond .

With respect to the air and noise data, a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) request from a resident on December 18, 2017, acknowledges that the FOIP office has 30-days to respond to the request, they also note that public authority may extend this on their own authority. Consequently, they have given Alberta Transportation until February 16, 2018 to respond.  What about openness and transparency?  What about public health & safety?  What are they trying to hide?

YYC Cares has written to Alberta Health Services about this concern because public health & safety must come first.

We received a reply from AHS on January 18, 2018 that states, “we provided input in December about monitor placement. As mentioned we are supportive of the general approach taken. However, we did recommend adjustment of locations on the downwind/east side to address concerns that possible exposures to fugitive dust were not being captured with respect to your neighbourhood. Our understanding is that Alberta Transportation is planning to make adjustments to address the issues being raised”.

Alberta Transportation has ignored this recommendation from AHS and their commitment to Councillor Davison.  There are no new monitors and the existing ones remain in the same place. Public health & safety must have priority over politics and profit.

At a January 16, 2017 Open House in Bearspaw, emergency room physician Dr. Mardelle Gamble gave an impromptu speech about crystalline silica the dirty word nobody wants to talk about.  She came to the meeting as a doctor and a very concerned citizen. She said, “I have decided that I am going to be the voice for our children (who) can’t speak for themselves and are the most vulnerable.” 

As is stated in Enrique Massot’s article (link to the right), Dr. Gamble, a Bearspaw resident and specialist in emergency medicine has worked for over 17 years in Calgary hospitals and is concerned the draft policy written by the County will allow gravel operations to locate as close as 500 metres from residences. 

During her impromptu speech, Dr. Gambel states:

breathable particles of silica, a known carcinogen generated during gravel extraction, can travel far and seriously harm humans”

Emergency room doctor pleads for safety on gravel mining

“It permeates your lungs” … “It never leaves.” 

“Staying indoors may not guarantee safety” … “(Silica) permeates your heating and cooling systems” …  “It does not go away.”

“Tiny crystalline silica particles freed during gravel extraction and crushing are carried away by the wind and if inhaled reach far into the lungs, causing lesions and ailments such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lung cancer”

“If you come to my emergency department, I will care for you as I do for a member of my family,” she said. “We ask that councillors and planners act in good faith—that they represent and safeguard our health.”

The issue before the County was to decide upon allowing gravel pit operations within 500 m of residences. The Wentworth pit is within 100 m.  The only solution as Dr. Gamble points out is distance and proper mitigation. By distance she means keep them very far away from residences. For the full speech, please watch the YouTube video to the right.

Emergency room doctor pleads for safety on gravel mining


While KGL has strived to keep gravel trucks off of our roads, there are still conflict points, and zones where they are on a major highway.  Safety issues are a major concern, both for local area residents and any drivers sharing the road along the haul routes. Any increase in heavy truck traffic brings increased risks. As the picture on the left indicates, when a fully laden gravel truck hits a passenger vehicle, its very clear what happens to the unfortunate folks inside of the car.  This is why the residents from Cougar Ridge, through to the Slopes, Springbank Hill and Discovery Ridge have asked for a better and safer plan.  Under the LandTransfer Agreement with the Tsuu T’ina Nation, the Contractor was supposed to utilize sand and gravel from the Nation (see Schedule 13).  Its strange how Alberta Transportation can tell the Environment Appeals Board at a public hearing that they can’t deviate from their overbuilt 16 – 18 lane road design because it puts the Land Transfer Agreement at risk.  However, they can violate the provisions of Schedule 13 without any consequences, which increases the risk of accidents to local residents.

In December 2012 – the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), issued the results of an “Aggregate Vehicle Survey Analysis”.  As the headline from this news article in 2014 reveals, all was not good: “Shocking weight of aggregate truck numbers exposed in MTO study“. 

In total, 434 aggregate vehicles were surveyed between August and October 2012. According to the  survey, 44.3 to 53.7 per cent of the vehicles were loaded within the interim aggregate weight enforcement tolerance, 24.3 to 33.7 per cent exceeded the interim aggregate weight tolerance and 38.3 to 47.7 per cent exceeded their allowable gross weight.

The presentation noted it expects a 95 per cent accuracy rate and  “overloading is a systemic problem which involves shippers, carrier, drivers and MTO.”

You be the judge, are the concerns of the local residents warranted or not!  Should there be a change in policy and should the Contractor be forced to abide by the terms and conditions of the Land Transfer Agreement?

Property Values

The Lansik Appraisals and Consulting report from January 2014 deals with the loss in value of homes located in the vicinity or the proposed vicinity of a gravel pit in southern Ontario. While this is an Ontario study, we are of the opinion that this study is representative of the diminution in price nation wide. The study determined that the loss in property value was between 8% and 40% in the vicinity of gravel pits. 

A U.S. Senate report in 2008 also found that property’s adjacent to gravel pits suffered a 30% loss in value. Properties one mile away from the pit suffered a 14.5% loss in value and those 2 miles away incurred a 8.9% drop in value. This report is based upon the work of Dr. Diane Hite, an economist at Auburn University. Dr. Hite examined the effects of distance from a 250-acre gravel mine on the sales price of 2,552 residential properties from 1996 to 1998.  

In Alberta section 534 of the Municipal Government Act deals with “injurious affection”, which is the permanent loss in the appraised value of land due to public works.  According to 534 (3) an owner of land that abuts land on which a public work or structure is situated is entitled to compensation from the municipality for injurious affection to the owner’s land. The owner of land described in subsection (3) is entitled to compensation under this section only if the owner files with the municipality a claim within 60 days after notice of the completion of the public work or structure is published in the newspaper. 

Closer to home we have the May 18th, 2016 Gettel Appraisals Ltd. market value assessment of nine properties in the general vicinity of a proposed gravel pit in Red Deer County. As this report indicates the projected loss of property value from a gravel pit within the vicinity of these homes was between 55 to 25%.  Further, as this graph by Dr. Diane Hite indicates, the closer one is to the gravel pit, the higher the projected loss in property value.   

Consequently, we encourage all that abut this gravel pit to seek legal advice regarding a claim for injurious affection.

Click below to view the reports

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If you are concerned about this issue or if you think your health is at risk, please contact the following people and services.  If its an emergency please dial 911.

If you are concerned about this issue or if you think your health is at risk, please contact the following people and services.  If its an emergency please dial 911.

Alberta health Services – Complaint

Dial this toll free number 310-0000 Email the Minister of Health

Call 1 (800) 661-3446 or
email the OCYA

Telephone  403-297-6185

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