At 5:20 pm on December 13, 2019 a large area on the Bruce Peninsula was shaken by what was initially reported as a small earthquake by Natural Resources Canada, which monitors seismic activity coast to coast in Canada. It registered 2.1 on the Richter scale. Seismic events at that level are not usually felt, not until they reach 3.5 on the scale. But that one was felt, and heard, for several seconds from Cape Croker north-east of Wiarton, to Lion’s Head, about halfway up the peninsula.
As I’ve said before in several previous posts, I thought at first part of my house in Hope Ness, north of Hope Bay, had collapsed, and perhaps the nearby barn, or a large tree had fallen on or near the house. By that time night had fallen. I went outside with a flashlight but saw nothing amiss. Back in the house I turned on a kitchen tap and was relieved to find the water was still running. So, apparently the deep drilled well had not been damaged.
Within a couple of days, the federal agency had changed its appraisal of the seismic event to something more characteristic of a quarry “blast,” or explosion. The location of the blast was said to have been about 14 kilometres north of Wiarton, southwest of Hope Bay on the Georgian Bay side of the peninsula. There are several quarries in that area, the best-known being the Arriscraft Adair marble quarry.
Two Ontario Ministries were initially involved in a joint investigation, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, after receiving calls from alarmed residents who had also heard and felt the blast. But a short time later the investigation was solely in the hands of the Ontario Natural Resources ministry which has regulatory responsibility for the provinces aggregate industry, including blasting activities. I was told the ministry was focusing its investigation in the area of those Hope Bay-area quarries.
Follow-up calls to the Ministry since mid-December, and now in the new year, have been met with the same response: nothing new to report.
Meanwhile, social media activity on the peninsula, and the responses of hundreds of local readers of this blog to previous posts about the “blast,” attested to a high level of public concern.
I think it’s more than fair to say, had a “blast” or explosion been felt over such a wide area in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) the cause and the reasons why, rightly or wrongly, would have been determined and made public within days of it happening; not weeks, and now more than a month later.
I made that point when I called our local MPP’s office (Bill Walker, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) Thursday of this week. I told a staffer in his Owen Sound office I was hoping to interview him about the provincial response so far to the quarry “blast.”
I also said that, considering the effects of the blast which were felt over such a wide area, it must have been a very large explosion; and I said hundreds of people in the area are concerned and still waiting for answers. I contacted Walker as a freelance journalist hoping he could help speed up the information gathering process on the government side so his constituents on the peninsula can find out what they have a right to know. They’ve waited long enough.
I was told to put my request in writing, including by email, which I did. An Automatic reply said Walker would be in touch “as soon as possible.” That was not encouraging.
In these days of multi-layered, controlled-access to public information that should be readily available, and within a reasonable time, it’s getting harder not easier to get it.
In this instance, in which an explosion at a quarry shook houses several kilometres and more away, one has to wonder why.
But, like I say, if it happened in the GTA, I think we’d know by now. More reason to think Ontario now has a government that does not consider keeping the people informed is any kind of priority, unless it looks good from a propaganda point of view for Premier Doug Ford. He signaled that in early press conferences when staffers were made to stand up and and make noise to drown out questions from reporters.