Dolime Quarry: FAQ

Why are Mike Schreiner and the Guelph Greens running a “Protect our Water” campaign to protect Guelph’s water from the impact of activities at the Dolime Quarry?

Activities at the Dolime Quarry, operated by River Valley Development Inc. (RVD), threaten the quality and quantity of Guelph’s drinking water. 

When you turn on the taps to get a drink of water or brush your kid’s teeth, Mike wants you to be confident that your water is clean and safe. 

What is the City of Guelph doing about this issue? 

Mike’s campaign is in support of the City’s request to the province to place conditions that protect Guelph’s drinking water on RVD’s application to amend its Permit to Take Water (PTTW) at their Dolime Quarry location.

The City has asked the province to place four simple and fair conditions on RVD’s PTTW. 

Those conditions are: 

1. Limit water pumping to the “historic average pumping rate”
2. Create a comprehensive long-term management plan for the quarry that protects Guelph’s water
3. Establish an effective water monitoring program
4. Put in place financial assurances and legally enforceable requirements so that the quarry owner – rather than Guelph ratepayers – pays for long-term mitigation costs related to the quarry’s operation.

The City is in ongoing, protracted negotiations with RVD. The provincial government has not used its influence to push for a resolution on this issue. The continued safety of Guelph’s drinking water is in question.

What does the Protect our Water campaign aim to achieve?

This campaign is seeking to protect the citizens of Guelph and the natural environment from risks that activities at the Dolime Quarry pose to our water. 

The goal is to ensure that the province places conditions on the quarry that will protect Guelph’s drinking water. 

Mike believes that the province should sustainably manage water as a public trust in the public interest. Public drinking water for people and communities should be the top priority when the province issues any PTTW. 

Why is the City concerned about expanding the extraction activities at the Dolime Quarry?

In a letter to the MOECC on December 21, 2012, Janet Laird, City of Guelph Executive Director of Planning, Building, Engineering and Environment, outlined four major reasons why the amended permit to take water (PTTW) should not be granted:

  1. The PTTW will worsen the interference effect of quarry operations on the City’s municipal wells.
  2. The PTTW must be conditional on the establishment of a long term Management Plan for the quarry.
  3. The establishment of the Management Plan cannot be deferred to another approval process.
  4. The proposed Monitoring Program for the PTTW is not adequate.

The city has eight water supply wells within two kilometres of the Dolime Quarry. These wells supply approximately 25 per cent of Guelph’s water supply. Operations at the quarry may also affect private wells for area residents in Guelph-Eramosa Township since the quarry and private wells pump from the same aquifer.

The City’s Application for Leave to Appeal outlines in detail the risks posed to Guelph’s water:

Why should citizens of Guelph be concerned about the Dolime Quarry?

Under the current management plan for the quarry, there are inherent risks to the quality and quantity of water available for citizens. 

This could affect the amount of water available to drink, water your garden, or brush your teeth. 

Activities at the quarry could affect the quality of Guelph’s water, resulting in large financial expenditures to clean our groundwater. Currently, Guelph taxpayers would be on the hook for these expenses. 

How is our water at risk?

The quality of Guelph’s water is at risk because RVD is mining too deeply based on the geology of the limestone extraction site. Guelph’s drinking water is at risk of contamination from surface water because extraction at the Dolime quarry has already breached the protective aquitard layer, which could expose the aquifer supplying city water to surface contamination. This represents a significant threat to the future water quality of seven municipal water supply wells, all located within 2 km of the quarry.

The quantity of Guelph’s water is at risk because RVD wants to pump more water. The City has adapted the operation of their water supply wells to accommodate the historic rate of water pumping at the quarry. But an increase in the amount of water RVD pumps from the Quarry could compete with the amount of water available for people in Guelph. 

What is the Dolime Quarry?

The Dolime Quarry refers to a limestone quarry located at 7237 County Road 124 in Guelph-Eramosa Township near Guelph’s western city limit at Wellington Road and the Hanlon Expressway.

The quarry is currently owned by River Valley Developments Inc. (RVD) and operated by James Dick Construction Limited (JDC) under a license from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) under the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA).

RVD has a license to extract limestone from an area of 44.77 hectares to an extraction depth of 285 metres above sea level (masl). Guelph is at an elevation of 334 meters above sea level, so this means that the quarry can go as deep as 49 meters or 160 feet. 

The quarry has been operating since the 1860s and has had several different owners throughout its history.

What does the Dolime Quarry want to do?

The quarry operators (RVD) have applied to double their current rate of limestone extraction. In order to accommodate this increased extraction, they need to amend their  Permit To Take Water (PTTW).  RVD is also looking to move the location of their water pump to facilitate operations. 

Has the amended Permit to Take Water (PTTW) been granted?

Yes. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) granted PTTW No. 5080-8TAKK2 to the Dolime Quarry owners (River Valley Developments) on January 25, 2013 under section 34 of the Ontario Water Resources Act. This permit renews a permit first issued in November 1993 to Guelph Dolime Limited for the dewatering of the Guelph Dolime quarry site.

The City of Guelph is appealing the permit in its entirety, including all its general and specific provisions. The City and the RVD are in MOECC-supervised negotiations regarding the PTTW. The current PTTW expires at the end of 2017.

What was the historical average pumping rate?

HIstorically the quarry has pumped approximately 5,000 and 7,000 m3/day of groundwater per day from the quarry. This represents between 20% and 25% of the known sustainable pumping rate in the area.

What is the maximum pumping rate granted in the amended PTTW in 2013?

The quarry can pump 13,750 m3/day of water. That is equal to 13.7 million litres. As of August 1, 2017, the peak water use for a day for the entire City of Guelph is 54.188 million litres.

What could happen without a comprehensive long-term water management plan?

A comprehensive long-term water management plan is needed to protect the quality and quantity of the water supplied by municipal wells. Without a management plan, the quality and quantity of the water in our municipal wells is threatened. A management plan is needed to ensure that the quarry’s water use does not limit the water supply available for people in Guelph. The plan must also define permitted activities that would avoid digging too deep into the aquitard. 

What could happen without an effective monitoring plan?

Effective monitoring plans are needed to track quarry activities and ensure that those activities do not pose a threat to Guelph’s drinking water. The current monitoring program is, according to the City, “technically inadequate to determine whether future well interference is caused by quarry operations”. 

What could happen without a financial assurances plan?

The City of Guelph suggests a financial assurances plan be set up so citizens of Guelph don’t get stuck with the bill if operations at the quarry lead to unforeseen environmental costs in the future.

Understanding some key terminology may answer additional questions you might have. 

What is an aquifer?

An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, or silt) from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well. The city of Guelph is unique in that it depends almost 100% on aquifers for its water source.

What is an aquitard?

An aquitard is a protective natural barrier over an aquifer. An aquitard restricts the flow of groundwater from one aquifer to another. Guelph’s Aquitards are made up of layers of clay.

If the aquitard is breached then the water supply in the aquifer could become contaminated with polluted surface water.

What can I do to help?

Yay! We love it when people ask us that.

Whether it’s knocking on doors, making phone calls, or organizing and attending events - we need your help! 

Don’t like to leave the house? Volunteer with our media and communications team! Email Sandra Walsh at to discuss how you can help out.

Haven’t got the time? You can still donate and sign the petition!