The Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ) has released a preliminary orientation concerning the establishment of an asphalt factory on Covey Hill in Havelock. It will allow Groupe Chenail Inc. to install the plant in the Carrières Ducharme quarry for a period of five years, with conditions.
The assessment, which was issued September 14 by the CPTAQ, is not a final decision. The document includes a summary of the application by Groupe Chenail Inc. and indicates the Commission’s intent to approve or refuse the project.
The assessment concludes that an asphalt factory would not result in any additional loss of soil resources and would not impact agricultural activities on the lot or neighbouring properties, which include maple syrup production and orchards. The Commission says the installation of an asphalt plant would not further affect the homogeneity of the area, and that a quarry represents a less impactful site for such an installation as it is complimentary to existing quarry operations.
According to the assessment, the plant should be authorized for five years with the condition that the topsoil be preserved and respread once the factory is removed, and all asphalt residues must be removed and properly managed. After five years, Groupe Chenail Inc. may resubmit an application to continue the plant operations, and the CPTAQ will reassess the situation.
The CPTAQ writes that while the preoccupations expressed by municipal authorities were discussed, some of their concerns related more to the environment than agriculture, such as the possible contamination of the aquifer, which is outside the criteria considered by the commission.
Disappointment and frustration
“Obviously we are disappointed by the orientation,” says Havelock mayor Gerald Beaudoin, who disputes the suggestion an asphalt factory will not negatively impact the region’s homogeneity.
“It is frustrating to see the considerations of the people who are going to be dealing with the consequences of this being excluded,” he says, noting there are so many other elements that are not being given any consideration.
The municipality has until October 14 to request a public audience with the CPTAQ. Beaudoin says he is hoping the UPA, maple syrup producers, and the MRC will support their case. He notes the municipality has also received letters of support from other municipalities.
The ad hoc committee is now working on the content of their presentation to the CPTAQ.
“We will try to be optimistic,” Beaudoin says, noting the CPTAQ’s suggestion that the plant be allowed to run for five years will place the onus entirely on the municipality to cite reasons for why the factory should not be able to continue once the initial period expires.
Ready to meet with citizens
Groupe Chenail Inc. continues to defend the project. A statement issued by Antoine La Rue, a lawyer representing the Saint-Rémi-based company, notes that the project was initially well received by the municipality, which then changed its position following opposition by citizens without allowing the business to meet with those citizens to address concerns.
“The reasons given by opponents for opposing the project and its impact on the environment and agriculture are simply unfounded and seem to stem from assumptions and misinformation about the operation of an asphalt concrete plant. All the experts we consulted agree that setting up a plant in the quarry is a best practice in terms of sustainable development, which will notably reduce transportation,” says La Rue.
“My client has suggested to the municipality on several occasions that a public information session be held in the presence of citizens and environmental consultants, and they are disappointed that municipal representatives have chosen to rely on the courts instead of prioritizing this transparent, participatory approach,” writes La Rue.
“Groupe Chenail inc. has retained the services of experienced consultants and professionals to ensure that it obtains all necessary authorizations, operates in compliance with all applicable standards and follows industry best practices,” he continues, noting the company makes it a priority to “maintain good relations with citizens, and is always ready to meet with them to discuss ways of carrying out its activities harmoniously.”