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Brooklyn farmer camps out to halt blasting, save water


BROOKLYN – John Bruce was camped out on the North Mountain when they blew it up.

The Brooklyn farmer spent the day June 5 trying to stop a numbered company from blasting a piece of property across the road from his farm and from where many in the small rural community, just north of Middleton, get their water.

In the morning Bruce drove his tractor halfway up the mountain through a field of timothy and clover and then walked and climbed the 600 metres through the woods in often-steep terrain to the edge of the quarry.

An Annapolis County Spectator reporter met Bruce at the top of the mountain where he described the community’s frustration of trying to halt a proposed quarry over the past four years. And they were successful. The application was turned down by the province and later the Supreme Court.

Bruce was mystified why the company could suddenly just start blasting.

Colleen McGill, one of Bruce’s neighbours and spokesperson for the community, talked to Bruce on his cellphone as he sat atop the mountain, a mere 150 metres from the blast site. And she contacted Premier Stephen McNeil’s office in Middleton to try to halt the detonation.

A camera-shy John Bruce sits in the woods on the North Mountain near a site where blasting was to take place later in the day June 5. Bruce stayed on the property but the blasting went ahead anyway. He is concerned the blasting will affect the water he and many of his neighbours use. It’s piped down the mountain.

Response

She said on behalf of the community of Brooklyn Road, Annapolis County she was requesting immediate action to stop blasting.

“There is an explosives truck on the property of 415 Brooklyn Road, Annapolis County,” she said. “Holes have been drilled and now blasting material is being prepared.”

She concluded her email like this: “I urgently request this operation be shut down before anyone is killed.”

Pam VanRoestel at McNeil’s office in Middleton said in her reply to McGill it was her understanding that the owner of the property was intending to do develop the property, not open a surface mine.

“Development of a property does not require an approval from the Department of Environment,” VanRoestel said. “The Department of Labour may request records of the pre-blast, log book, post inspection, mapped zones (danger zone calculations), photos and videos from a health and safety perspective and not from an environmental standpoint.”

She said the province’s blasting regulations require that the work be conducted by a registered blaster and that that requirement had been met.

“The owner of this property does not currently have an approval from the Department of Environment or a contract with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to develop a quarry on this site,” she said.

RCMP were called to a property on Brooklyn Road where local farmer John Bruce was camped out to try to halt blasting on an adjoining property. He is concerned the blasting will affect the community’s water supply that is piped down the mountain.

“An investigation is still ongoing regarding work at the property at 415 Brooklyn Road,” said Krista Higdon with the Department of Environment late Tuesday afternoon. “The owner does not have an approval from the Department of Environment for a quarry, and does not have a contract with TIR for a quarry at this site. Department of Environment inspectors are closely monitoring the situation.”

RCMP

At mid-afternoon a member of the site blasting crew approached Bruce, The Spectator, and Bruce’s son Robert at the edge of the property and asked that they leave the area because the detonation was planned for within half an hour. John Bruce wanted to see a permit, which he was assured by the blasting crew existed – despite the fact McNeil’s office later said one was not required.

John Bruce remained on the neighbouring property while Robert Bruce and the Spectator reporter walked through the blasting site and down the quarry property road as requested.

The blast area consisted of drilled holes packed with explosives set in a grid pattern with yellow and red wires connecting the explosives. Red paint marked a similar grid that Bruce believes indicates future blasts are planned.

The blast holes were reported to be 16 to 20 feet deep, and considered to be a surface blast.

An explosives truck heads down the mountain from a site being developed by a company owned by Mike Lowe of Parker Mountain. This photo was taken from the neighbouring property where local farmer John Bruce stayed while blasting took place less than 200 metres away. He was trying to stop the blasting.

In the meantime, Annapolis RCMP were called to the site to talk to Bruce. And they did that briefly on his phone. Three RCMP cars were on the land adjacent to the property on which the blasting was to be done. Two of them drove up to a small cottage at the edge of the woods where Bruce’s wife Trish Bruce was waiting. Later, police drove the steep quarry road and talked with members of the blasting crew. When they did find Bruce, he declined to go down the mountain with them.

The Blast

By about 5:30 p.m. it appeared the blast would be aborted, presumably because Bruce was still in the woods near the blast site. David Robinson with K & M Inspection Consultants Ltd. packed up his blast monitoring equipment saying the detonation was called off and he was on his way back to Halifax. About 15 minutes later he was back and the blast happened just a few minutes before 6 p.m.

K & M Inspection Consultants records seismic activity related to blasting and sends the reports to the Department of Environment.

VanRoestel said Department of Environment inspectors are closely monitoring the development of the site and that they would take appropriate action if there is any indication that quarry operations are commencing without approval.

McGill said the property was registered under the numbered company of 3266304 Nova Scotia Limited. In July of 2015, Nova Scotia Environment rejected its application to operate a quarry and in November 2015, the Minister of Environment upheld the decision.

“Finally in December of 2016, the courts  also upheld the decision with a comprehensive 34-page document,” McGill said.

The company, registered out of Church Point, lists Mike Lowe of Parker Mountain Road as director and president.

The June 5 blast, preceded by an air horn blast, could be felt more than a kilometre away. McGill felt it in her greenhouse farther away than that.

John Bruce survived the blast, hunkered down at the lower edge of the site on the neighbouring property.

Finding John Bruce and staying off property where the blasting was to take place required navigation using GPS.

NOTE: This story was updated to reflect comments from the Department of Environment and that RCMP did find and speak with Bruce..

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