Officials of two Ontario ministries that oversee operations of pits and quarries in Ontario are investigating an apparent explosion in a quarry north of Wiarton on the Bruce Peninsula late last Friday evening.
The incident was initially described as a “small” earthquake by Natural Resources Canada which monitors seismic activity. The tremor lasting several seconds was reported by the federal department as registering 2.1 on the Richter scale normally used to describe the magnitude of earthquakes. It was described by the federal agency as being about 14 kilometres north of Wiarton in the Hope Bay area. It was felt by numerous people from Cape Croker, northeast of Wiarton, to the village of Lion’s Head about halfway up the peninsula.
Usually, earthquakes of that magnitude are barely felt and heard in the vicinity in which they occur. But residents in the Hope Bay and nearby Hope Ness areas described a loud roaring sound and felt a rumbling that shook their homes.
That certainly was my experience here in the part of Hope Ness closest to Hope Bay when it happened, at 5:20 pm, late Friday afternoon. Initially, I thought part of my house was collapsing, or the barn about 100 metres away. I wondered if a large vehicle possibly coming down my driveway had slipped on ice and hit the house. My two dogs started barking loudly. I went outside with a flashlight to check for damage to the house, or possibly a large, fallen tree, but saw nothing amiss. I went up and checked the barn; no problem.
Shortly afterwards people in the affected area, including close neighbors, were on social media asking, each other, “did you feel that?” The frequent response was “yes.” The possibility of a sonic boom from an overflying F18 jet fighter going to afterburners was raised.
Over the weekend, Natural Resources Canada, revised its assessment of the seismic activity as more characteristic of a quarry “blast” then an earthquake.
An official of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed Wednesday it is involved in a joint investigation of the blast with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. The former oversees provincial Pits and Quarries regulations, while the latter is responsible for blasting because it is covered by environmental protection regulations.
“There are guidelines and limits on blasting,” a Natural Resources aggregate official said Wednesday. He said normally blasting is supposed to have “minimal” effects that can be heard or felt. “This was not normal,” he added.
He said the joint investigation is currently, “the focus of our work here,” referring to the area of the blast. He declined to go into more details, including about the possible location of the blast, while the investigation was still in its early stages.
After the tremor occurred, I was concerned about possible damage to my well. It’s well known seismic activity can cause it. The water was still running. But a blast of that apparent strength in a quarry some few kilometres away is cause for ongoing concern. It should not happen again.