Alliston Aquifer Threatened Again By Gravel Washing

Photo of Stephen Ogden, Dr John Bacher and Danny Beaton Nov 2008, Walk For Water Stop Site 41.

Article by John Bacher with contributions from Danny Beaton, Mohawk of the Turtle Clan.

Around the community of Elmvale in Tiny Township of Simcoe County, beneath the underground aquifers, is found the world’s purest water. It is created through the cleansing and protection of the glacial deposits that over the hills are known as the Waverly Uplands. The gold standard of the purity of this water has caused it to be used to successfully detect minute pollutants leached from drinking bottles. A 28-year struggle to protect the purity of this water resulted in the defeat of a proposal to build a garbage dump within the Alliston Aquifer, which was to be called Dump Site 41. Before outrage over sediment that was being leaked into the world’s purest water erupted, Danny Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, was imprisoned for four days for blockading construction vehicles. 

“Once again, Simcoe County remains the place for profit — not by farmers or Alternative Power Projects, but by developers seeking permission to extract limestone and aggregate for more concrete cement for highways and urban sprawl “ says Beaton. “The County of Simcoe has mighty rivers running beneath the surface ground. Even the Alliston Aquifer is alive and being recharged whenever the Thunder Peoples let us know fresh rainwater. Rainfall will recharge and refill groundwater storage.” 

In a letter Beaton received, dated April 16, 2009, it read "Mohawks have always been skeptical of people who believe that their systems will not fail. All too many times in the past, these claims have been made to the Department of the Environment and have resulted in expensive and timely clean-ups. The Alliston Aquifer appears to be one of the pristine water sources in Ontario Protected for over centuries. By forests and natural occurring barriers, this aquifer has survived in this time of industrialization and massive resource utilization. The Source Water Protection Acts were passed by the Ontario Governments to protect the valuable water resources of Canada and Ontario. A lot of emphasis has been placed on the protection of groundwater. I would like to commend the people who have understood the difference between rights and responsibilities. Rights and laws are formulated to protect the minimum amount of the environment, while responsibilities are the ways the Creator expects us to live on Mother Earth for future generations." Closing, sincerely Henry Lickers, Environment Science Officer, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Department of the Environment.

“Since Simcoe County is full of sand, limestone and water, developers see it as a faster buck than tilling the soil like our grandparents did in the old days,” says Beaton. “Mind you, there are hundreds of farms and farmers tilling the soil in Simcoe County, but they know what they are seeing. Developers are using their lawyers and cash to buy and profit at the expense of farmland, forests, wildlife, aquifers and endangered species. It’s all collateral damage during urban sprawl and resource extraction.” 

The Montreal rock band Arcade Fire has a record out called The Suburbs, which features a song called Wasted Hours (A Life We Can Live).” As the lyrics go: “First they built the road, then they built the town. That's why we're still driving round and round. And all we see are kids in buses longing to be free. Wasted hours, before we knew, where to go, and what to do. Wasted hours, that you made new. And turned into a life that we can live.” Beaton believes these words describe a sadness from urban sprawl and the wasted hours driving round and round, kids sitting in buses longing to be free.       

“If you look at the sprawl and development from Toronto to Barrie, you can see the loss of farmland and forest,” Beaton continues. “But if you are an environmentalist, you can also see it happening from Barrie to Georgian Bay. If you are a citizen or farmer, you are able to understand it happening. But we can ask ourselves, does it need to happen? Do we need all these pit mines near pure clean water and aquifers? Are we going to build cities on the last of the Green Belt, so lawyers and developers can make a profit off Mother Earth's bleeding body? In the old days the country was full of rich forests, creeks, rivers, wetlands, birds, fish, animals and insects. What little that is still alive should be protected and defended for our children's children and their children. In the song “Modern Man” by Arcade Fire, they sing `In my dream I was almost there and you pulled me aside and said you're going nowhere. Maybe when you're older you will understand why you don't feel right, why you don't sleep at night? In line for a number but you don't understand. Like a modern man.’”

Today there is a new proposal which threatens the purity of the world’s purest waters. This is a request for Permit to Take Water (PTTW), for the Teedon Pit, a proposed gravel washing operation. It is seeking a permit to take 1.6 million litres a day from this pure water source for the purpose of cleaning clay and silt off of its gravel. The water would then go into a pond, which would inevitably leak back into the world’s purest water. The permit is opposed by the Tiny Township Council, which voted against the “washing of aggregate in an environmentally sensitive area.”

There is a tight appeal deadline to defeat the massive threat to the world’s purest waters. Send your letters to by January 30th, 2021.

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