From forest to quarry to forest again

Ashley
Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Newcrete credited for environmental remediation efforts

A former quarry area, a typically desolate landscape, was set on the fast-track Saturday to becoming a new provincial forest.

With topsoil already set down over six to seven hectares and hydroseeded, 10,000 tree seedlings were planted. It has re-covered the otherwise barren land.

The company responsible for the reclamation work, Newcrete, exhausted the area for sand and gravel, mining there since 2011.

The area is only a portion of the company’s sand and gravel quarry operation near Foxtrap, off Incinerator Road and visible from the Trans-Canada Highway. Sand and gravel from the location is mixed in concrete used throughout St. John’s and surrounding communities.

“This is part of our progressive reclamation program. So we mine a section, reclaim, grass, plant trees, move on to the next section and do the same thing,” said Rod Mercer, Newcrete’s aggregate resources manager.

The reclamation work, coming at cost, moves beyond any legislated requirements for the company.

In terms of provincial regulation, an environmental reclamation plan is required before a company can be awarded a quarry lease. Yet the requirements for that set work are limited. The province demands a layer of overburden, for example, but not hydroseeding or the planting of new trees — not as Newcrete has done.

“We’ve done this in several other areas and a site that we did five years ago now has trees that are 60, 70 centimetres high,” Mercer said.

The remediation work has been encouraged by the Kelligrews Ecological Enhancement Program (KEEP) — a volunteer group focused on environmental education and protection of areas including Farrell’s Grove, the Kelligrews River and Pond, and Gully River and Pond.

The group is concerned with quarry cleanup throughout the province, calling for a change to the current legislation, to demand more from companies when they move out of once-active

sites.

“Over the years, whenever there was a proposal for a quarry development (locally), we went,” said KEEP volunteer Karen Morris. “And we said to them that remediation as per the legislation was only recontour and replace the grubbed-out material and of course that’s useless because, if there’s no nutrients, it doesn’t do anything. So you have a moonscape for a long time.”

She was on hand at the Newcrete site over the weekend to see some of the planting in progress.

The site was formerly controlled by Pennecon’s concrete division and has only recently come under the umbrella of Newcrete. Regardless of the name, Morris said the operators have remained and have responded to environmental concerns raised by KEEP.

The tree planting at the Newcrete site was completed by volunteers with Forests Without Borders, including Bill Clarke. who said the trees were three local varieties: eastern larch (juniper), black spruce and white spruce.

All of the volunteers tackling the planting work within the forestry industry. Clarke said their work at the quarry was expected to take about a day and a half.

Morris said her group has followed the progress of another area where similar remediation efforts were undertaken five years ago. That area is now home to more than 30 plant species, and fox, moose and various bird species have been spotted there.

Organizations: Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Foxtrap, Incinerator Road, Kelligrews River Gully River

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